SCOTUS Responds to House Impeachment Inquiry

SCOTUS Responds to House Impeachment Inquiry

( – Earlier this week, House Democrats told the Supreme Court that unredacted grand jury documents were needed from the failed Muller investigation into Russian interference. They said they are trying to determine if President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses during the Mueller investigation and are expanding their impeachment inquiry. Democrats stated, “The [House Judiciary] Committee’s investigation did not cease with the conclusion of the impeachment trial.” Mueller’s report found no evidence of Russian collusion.

On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal by the Department of Justice (DOJ), temporarily blocking the release of the redacted grand jury documents. The justices did not offer an explanation.

The order comes as the DOJ appealed a ruling from March by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Last summer, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the redacted documents in its impeachment inquiry. The Trump administration did not comply, and the case headed to court.

Typically, grand jury documents are shielded from disclosure. However, the DC Circuit Court agreed with a lower court ruling that said the House was engaged in a judicial proceeding. Therefore, the documents were exempt from secrecy rules. The appeals court ruled that the redacted documents must be disclosed to lawmakers.

The Supreme Court’s order gives the Trump administration until June 1 to formally appeal the DC Circuit Court’s ruling. If the justices decide to hear the case, a ruling will likely be made after the November 3 election unless the court decides to make special accommodations to speed up the hearing this summer.

Democrats Widen Impeachment Inquiry — May Face Serious Challenges

Democrats admitted in their court filing that the impeachment investigation is ongoing, especially in light of recent events. They say they want to know if Trump exercised improper political influence over the DOJ’s decisions in the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn prosecutions, both of which were initiated by the Mueller investigation.

There are two problems with the House’s position.

First, the President is the head of the executive branch. While American’s believe that the DOJ should be independent of the president, it is not its own unique branch of government. The Constitution spells out clearly that the president is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

In Morrison v. Olson (1988), Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that law enforcement, and the investigation and prosecution of crimes, is an executive function. The Constitution vests “the executive power” in the president alone. He said that neither Congress nor the courts can restrict the president’s powers as long as those powers don’t violate other parts of the Constitution.

The Constitution also charges the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The president could not fulfill his constitutional duties if he were “independent” of his responsibilities. Therefore, the president cannot exert improper political influence.

The second problem for Democrats, according to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, is that the inclusion of the Flynn and Stone cases into the impeachment inquiry blurs the line between oversight and an impeachment interest. Turley says it’s difficult to see “a credible impeachment claim arising out of either case.” In Flynn’s case, the DOJ is asking for a dismissal due to prosecutorial misconduct by the FBI. Additionally, Stone’s case had a recommendation to change the sentence he would face. Both fall entirely within the DOJ’s area of prosecutorial discretion.

It’s hard to tell at this point, but it appears based on the past rulings by the Supreme Court and Constitutional powers granted to the president, Democrats may face an uphill battle.

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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