A lawsuit currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could severely impair special counsel Robert Mueller’s ability to share details of his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election with the public.
The matter asks whether federal courts are empowered to release secret grand jury information. As Mueller has shared evidence and secured indictments in his probe from a grand jury in Washington, the case bears on his ability to publicly share details of his investigation.
The case, first flagged by Politico, relates to the disappearance of the Basque activist-academic Jesus de Galindez. Researchers are seeking access to sealed testimony an accused foreign agent named John Joseph Frank gave to a Washington grand jury relating to Galindez’s disappearance.
The Department of Justice is opposing the release of Frank’s testimony. They argue that federal rules prohibit the release of secret grand jury information and that the Galindez case does not “rise to the level of exceptional historic significance,” that would warrant their release. (RELATED: Trump Says McGahn Is No Rat, After NYT Reveals That The White House’s Top Lawyer Is Cooperating With Mueller)
A ruling for the Justice Department in that case could mean that Mueller would lose a mechanism for releasing evidence and findings he shared with the grand jury to the public, meaning that some elements of his probe could remain secret for years.
The concealment of Mueller’s report would be a political gift to Trump, in the opposite fashion that former FBI Director James Comey’s report on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state proved devastating to her presidential ambitions.
Though Comey cleared Clinton of legal wrongdoing in a July 5, 2016 press conference, he styled her use of the server “extremely careless,” revealed that Clinton transmitted classified information through unsecured channels, and acknowledged the possibility that hostile actors accessed her email without detection.
Coverage of the scandal dominated the middle stretch of the campaign, was consistently featured in Trump campaign messaging, and highlighted Clinton’s most unlikable qualities.
However, Politico notes that congressional Democrats could obtain the report should they take control of the House of Representatives in the November elections. Under this scenario, the Democratic majority on the House Judiciary Committee could subpoena the findings in connection with articles of impeachment. (RELATED: This New Memo Proves Brett Kavanaugh Pulled No Punches On Clinton’s Lewinsky Testimony)
Mueller’s report could then fulfill the same function as Ken Starr’s report on President Bill Clinton’s misdeeds — the Starr report, which alleged 11 impeachable offenses, became something of a template for congressional Republicans making a removal case against Clinton.
Oral arguments in the case, McKeever v. Sessions, are set for Sept. 21.
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