UPDATE: On Friday Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked the release of the grand jury materials and ordered the House Judiciary Committee to respond by Monday, May 18, at 3 p.m. EDT. The committee had not opposed the temporary hold, known as an administrative stay, to give the court time to review the government’s request.
The Department of Justice came to the Supreme Court today, asking the justices to put on hold the disclosure of grand jury materials from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in March 2019 submitted a report on possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld an order by a federal trial court that would require the disclosure to the House Judiciary Committee of portions of the Mueller report that had been redacted, along with grand jury transcripts and materials that had been kept secret. Unless the Supreme Court steps in, the government told the justices, “the government will have to disclose the materials on May 11, 2020, which would irrevocably lift their secrecy and possibly frustrate the government’s ability to seek further review.”
The D.C. Circuit, the government explained, relied on an exception to the general rule of grand jury secrecy that allows courts to authorize disclosure of grand jury materials “in connection with a judicial proceeding” – in this case, the D.C. Circuit reasoned, the impeachment trial of the president. The Department of Justice plans to file a petition for review of the D.C. Circuit’s order; today’s filing asked the justices to temporarily block the release of the grand jury materials until that petition is filed and the Supreme Court rules in the case. The government argued, in a brief signed by U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, that the justices are likely to grant review; by contrast, the government contended, the House Judiciary Committee “has not identified any urgent requirement” to obtain the materials, and there is no impeachment trial currently underway.
The House Judiciary Committee indicated that it plans to oppose the government’s request to block the release of the grand jury materials, but it also indicated that – “out of respect” for the Supreme Court – it does not oppose a seven-day stay to give the justices time to rule on the government’s request.
The government’s request went to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergency appeals from the District of Columbia. Roberts can rule on the request himself or, as is more likely, refer it to his colleagues.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.