Much of the debate stems from the question of whether this year’s Senate impeachment trial constituted a “judicial proceeding.” The Justice Department said it did not, while Democrats insisted it did. The courts so far agree with the House.
“Reading the term to go beyond its plain meaning raises significant separation of powers concerns by rendering key portions” of the rules governing grand jury material “inoperative or unconstitutional in application,” DOJ lawyers said. They additionally warned of the “potential for harassment of the Executive Branch.”
The Justice Department said there was “good cause” for the Supreme Court to take up the case and worried it might be required to turn over the grand jury information before the high court weighs in, thus “irreversibly breaching the secrecy of those materials.”
The Trump administration has also argued that “any impeachment inquiry appears to be dormant.”
“While DOJ’s appeal was pending, the House adopted two Articles of Impeachment against President Trump for abuse of power in connection with a scheme to coerce Ukraine to investigate his political rival, and his obstruction of Congress,” the Democrats told the high court. “The President was acquitted after a trial on those Articles in the Senate.”
Democrats oppose intervention by the Supreme Court.
“The Committee first requested this information from DOJ more than a year ago. The district court issued its disclosure order more than six months ago. If DOJ’s request for a stay is granted, DOJ need not file its certiorari petition until August 2020, and therefore this Court likely would not determine whether to grant or deny that petition until at least October 2020,” Democrats told the court. “This substantial delay will seriously endanger the Committee’s ability to complete its impeachment investigation during the current Congress — which ends not long thereafter on January 3, 2021.”
The Dems noted that “the current House concludes in less than eight months” and argued “the public interest would be harmed irreparably if DOJ runs out the clock on the impeachment process.”