The House now won’t get those grand jury records — bringing to a close Democrats’ pursuit of what witnesses in the Mueller investigation said confidentially under oath about their interactions with Trump and others during the 2016 campaign.
But over the past two years, the fight plodded through the court system, with the Justice Department under Trump unsuccessfully arguing to block the release of the grand jury documents. The Supreme Court initially had agreed to hear the case, but then delayed it following Trump’s loss of the presidency in November.
On Friday, the high court vacated earlier rulings. The Justice Department under President Joe Biden wanted this result, saying the case had become moot. The House didn’t oppose the department’s move.
But a top lawyer for the House in June noted the case was ending because Trump was no longer President.
“The Trump Administration succeeded in running out the clock and thereby undermined the ability of the House of Representatives to have access to all of the relevant facts as it considered impeachment,” House General Counsel Douglas Letter wrote in a filing to the Supreme Court. In the future, “the Committee fully trusts that the Justice Department will return to its prior longstanding position and support disclosure at the appropriate time. Any failure to do so would gravely unsettle the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution and undermine the public’s trust in our system of government.”
Unanswered questions from Mueller
The case’s resolution after Trump’s departure highlights how the Justice Department during Trump’s presidency successfully blocked his political opponents in Congress from gaining key investigative documents.
Trump said in his written answers he didn’t recall any conversations about WikiLeaks with his political confidant Roger Stone.
Yet Stone lied to Congress about trying to reach WikiLeaks on behalf of the 2016 Trump campaign, and Mueller had asked several witnesses, including during grand jury proceedings, about what Trump knew and when. Dozens of witnesses testified before Mueller’s grand jury, according to CNN reporting, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and at least two people who attended an infamous Trump Tower meeting in summer 2016. Grand jury records are largely kept secret, except for use at times in judicial proceedings.
Separation of powers
The end of the case at the Supreme Court also leaves unresolved a major separation of powers fight over the secrecy of grand jury information.
Though Trump was impeached by the House twice during his presidency, the second time for incitement of the January 6 insurrection, Congress never carried through with a full investigation into Mueller’s findings that Trump had taken steps to shut down the Russia probe. Instead, after Mueller testified to Congress that his investigation hadn’t exonerated the President, Democrats shifted their focus to Trump’s attempts to push Ukraine to investigate his 2020 opponent, Biden.
When Trump left the presidency this year, the Mueller-obstruction impeachment inquiry effectively ended.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.