The House Judiciary Committee has asked the Supreme Court to postpone a hearing over whether the panel has the right to access secret grand jury materials related to the impeachment inquiry surrounding President Donald Trump.
The materials involve the issue of Trump’s alleged ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign and whether his subsequent actions as president constituted obstruction of justice. Lower courts held that the committee’s work was related to a judicial proceeding, that is, impeachment, and should therefore be given the unredacted report and other normally secret materials in the possession of the grand jury.
The new document filed with the Supreme Court doesn’t state when the hearing should be rescheduled, which suggests that House Democrats are considering dropping the case altogether.
The litigation itself, cited as Department of Justice v. Committee on the Judiciary, is an appeal from a March 10 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ordered Trump to surrender the documents.
But in light of the apparent results in the still-contested presidential election, the committee moved on Nov. 17 that the oral argument, which the court had scheduled for Dec. 2, be put off indefinitely. On Nov. 7, major media outlets projected that Democratic nominee Joe Biden would win the presidency.
The Trump campaign doesn’t accept that projection and is pursuing recounts and various legal challenges.
The House committee has been seeking the documents since mid-2019, when it took legal action after U.S. Attorney General William Barr declined to provide an unredacted copy of then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. As the legal conflict continued, the House impeached the president in December 2019, which was followed by his acquittal by the Senate in February.
According to committee briefs, former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton—Nixon had faced impeachment and Clinton was impeached—permitted related grand jury materials to be given to House officials.
“To our knowledge, no court has ever turned down a request for grand jury materials by Congress in connection with impeachment,” a brief stated.
House Democrats, noting that a new Congress will be constituted Jan. 3, 2021, and confident that Biden would be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2021, asked the justices to “recalendar” arguments in the case.
“Since the Committee filed its brief, the Presidential election has been held and Joseph R. Biden, Jr. has been projected to receive more than a sufficient number of the electoral votes needed to be elected as the 46th President of the United States,” the motion states.
The new committee in the new Congress should be allowed to decide how to proceed, the document states.
“The Committee’s investigations into misconduct by President Trump, oversight of agency activities during the Trump Administration, and consideration of related legislative reforms have remained ongoing. But a new Congress will convene in the first week of January 2021, and President-elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Once those events occur, the newly constituted Committee will have to determine whether it wishes to continue pursuing the application for the grand-jury materials that gave rise to this case.”
In the motion, the committee also said that “postponing argument would be in the interest of the parties and may conserve judicial resources.”
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last summer, a year after the committee began seeking the grand jury documents, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) was upset, reasoning that the documents wouldn’t be turned over before the Nov. 3 election. He said that Trump and his attorney general “are continuing to try to run out the clock on any and all accountability.”
Both Nadler’s office and the House Judiciary Committee didn’t immediately return telephone calls from The Epoch Times seeking comment. The White House also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.