Supreme Court

SCOTUS Postpones Argument Over Mueller Grand Jury Materials

This is one of several cases that could become moot within weeks.

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Last week, the House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court to reschedule oral arguments in Department of Justice v. House Committee on the Judiciary. The Department of Justice did not object and, on Friday, the Court granted the request.

The case, which concerns the House Judiciary Committee's efforts to obtain grand jury materials from the Mueller special counsel investigation, was originally scheduled for argument on December 2. The House motion asked to postpone argument in the case, as it's not clear there will be even be a case left to decide by January. In all likelihood, there would be a new Congress and new President before any decision could issue. Among other things, a new administration may be willing to release the materials or a new House Judiciary Committee may drop its request.

The underlying issue—whether an impeachment trial is a "judicial proceeding" under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure—is an interesting one, but also one that is not likely to recur any time soon (or so we can hope). Therefore it will not be a big deal if the Court ultimately decides to let this case go.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: November 23, 1804

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  1. It’s likely to occur again the very next time we have a Republican President and a Democratic House. Impeachment isn’t about high crimes and misdemeanors anymore, it’s just about showing disapproval.

    1. Or a Democratic President and a Republican House. Remember Monica!

    2. A look at past presidential impeachment attempts suggest that is the way it has always been.

      Lincoln’s successor was impeached because House Republicans disagreed with his policies towards the former Confederate states.

      They attempted to prevent him from replacing Lincoln’s cabinet members through a likely unconstitutional law purporting to add a requirement for Senate approval for removal of presidential appointees, then impeached him for violating it.

      There is a reason why no presidential impeachment has ever been successful in the Senate.

      1. Actually Johnson was impeached because there was no VP, and Nixon was going to be impeached because Ford was forced upon Nixon by Congress. So in both instances we would have had real change at the top unlike the Clinton/Gore. Policy wise I would take Trump any day over Pence, but Pence would at least be a competent executive and so had Republicans in the Senate upheld their oath we would have had fewer deaths in 2020.

      2. In any situation where there actually was bipartisan agreement that the President needed to go, most likely it would end up following the Nixon scenario.

        Where there isn’t bipartisan agreement, you can’t remove the President. This really upsets purists, who want “high crimes and misdemeanors” to have a legal definition and the President to be removed if that definition is met. But impeachment is committed to the Congress, a political body, and political decisions are made using political criteria.

  2. The frequency of presidential impeachment proceedings has been increasing, so there is actually a good chance it will arise again.

    Also, even if the new administration agrees to release the materials, couldn’t Trump bring suit to prevent that? Or is grand jury secrecy entirely within the prosecutor’s discretion? (Crim pro is not my field.)

  3. The House only has the power to impeach the President, not indict him or otherwise initiate criminal charges.

    Once Trump is out of office, then any actions by the House Judiciary are moot. You cannot impeach a former president.

    So at that point, there is no more reason for them to obtain the materials.

    1. As I understand it they’ve claimed a right to the materials as relevant to writing prospective legislation concerning mandatory disclosure of the tax records of Presidential candidates.

      But I think they’ll not pursue this anyway, because the real purpose of demanding the records, leaking them, has already been achieved.

      1. Yes, but writing legislation is not a basis to release grand jury materials, which are generally very hard to get, at the federal level.

        What was asserted was that impeachment proceedings are akin to other criminal proceedings, which is an exception to the general rule. (I am dubious about that argument). Point is, there are no impeachment proceedings once Trump leaves office.

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