The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked House Democrats from getting access to confidential materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation while the justices consider a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration for a longer delay.
The administrative stay issued Friday means the Justice Department won’t have to meet a Monday deadline to turn over the materials, which include grand jury transcripts and redacted parts of Mueller’s report. House officials had said they wouldn’t object to a seven-day delay while the court considers how to handle the case.
The order from Chief Justice John Roberts directed House lawyers to file a response by May 18. It keeps the records under seal until Roberts or the full court acts again.
The House Judiciary Committee sought the records as part of its impeachment inquiry last year, saying the information would help explain Trump’s role in the events chronicled in Mueller’s 448-page report into Russian election interference. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The administration says a federal trial judge lacked power to unseal the information. Grand jury materials are normally sealed, but federal rules let a judge authorize disclosure for “judicial proceedings.” The key question is whether that includes House impeachment inquiries.
A federal appeals court ruled that impeachment proceedings qualified, saying courts had let lawmakers see grand jury materials during the impeachment inquiries of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is asking the Supreme Court to put off that ruling, and keep the materials sealed, while the justices decide whether to hear the administration’s appeal.
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