The Supreme Court has confirmed that it will pick up the House of Representative’s case against the Department of Justice in the Fall session. In the case, two lower courts have held that the House is right to seek grand jury materials. The materials, gathered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, have remained sealed.
The House is arguing that the materials should be made available to them, as they pertain to a judicial proceeding. The DOJ, on the other hand, argues that impeachment proceedings are not judicial, as they’re undertaken by the legislative branch.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller compiled a report that was completed in 2019 that dealt with alleged Russian intervention in the 2016 election. The report led to numerous indictments of individuals close to the Donald Trump presidential campaign. President Trump has railed against Mueller and the report, characterizing it as a “witch hunt” that was unfounded.
Mueller himself, however, remained a stoic and impassive figure throughout the compilation of the report. After its publication, sizable chunks were redacted by the Department of Justice. The House of Representatives, however, has requested the full, unredacted version of the report. Their reasoning is that the materials are pursuant to ongoing investigations into Donald Trump.
The Meaning of Judicial
At the heart of the case is the meaning of the word “judicial” with regards to grand jury materials. The materials are to remain sealed unless they are needed in connection to a judicial proceeding. Impeachment proceedings, the House argues, are judicial by their nature. They point to the Constitution’s wording in relation to impeachment.
The Constitution includes language like how the president will be “tried” and how “judgement” will be rendered. This, House lawyers argue, is key, as it shows that impeachment was framed by the Constitution as judicial. The DOJ, however, dissents. They believe that the House, a legislative body, should not be given access to the materials.
Supreme Court to Decide
The case could have lasting ramifications for Congressional oversight. Should the Supreme Court decide that Congress can’t see sealed grand jury materials in connection to impeachment proceedings, that would mark a sizable reduction in their role as an oversight organization. The Constitution imparts specific oversight powers to Congress.
Textualists, like Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts, may side with the House over the wording of the Constitution. However, the two conservative justices may side with the Department of Justice, supporting their more permissive view of oversight.