The US Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether Democrats in Congress can access politically explosive evidence underlying the investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russia.
But even as it could hear arguments in the case in the fall, the high court is not expected to make its decision before the November 3 election, meaning Democrats will not have access to the still-classified evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller presented to a grand jury for their battle to defeat Trump.
Mueller’s investigation, which started in 2017 and wound up in March 2019, reported a number of instances of contact between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials during the period Moscow actively meddled in the campaign on Trump’s behalf.
Mueller found no evidence of criminal conspiracy by the campaign to work with the Russians, but much of his heavily redacted final report did not provide any of the underlying evidence that was presented to a grand jury that reviewed the case.
Mueller also outlined multiple instances where Trump sought to obstruct the investigation, but did not formally accuse Trump of obstruction, and the Justice Department declared there were no grounds for charges.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee believe the information Mueller’s team presented to the grand jury could be damaging to Trump and sued in mid-2019 to access it.
The Justice Department, led by close Trump ally Attorney General Bill Barr, has said it cannot release the material.
In March the federal appeals court in Washington supported the Democrats, and the Justice Department appealed the decision to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, hoping it will be overruled.
The case challenges the Supreme Court to weigh in on the balance of power between the executive branch — including the Justice Department — and Congress, where Democrats say they have a right to view the normally secret grand jury material.
The House panel continues to investigate Trump for impeachment in relation to alleged collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice in that case.
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A separate impeachment effort, related to Trump’s asking Ukraine to help his political fight with Democrat Joe Biden, succeeded when the Democrat-controlled House voted to impeach, or formally charge, Trump last December.
However after a trial the Republican-held Senate voted to acquit Trump on the Ukraine-related charges in February.
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