U.S Supreme Court takes up Trump bid to withhold parts of Russia report

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Washington – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration to avoid disclosing to a Democratic-led congressional panel grand jury materials related to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report documenting Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The justices are due to hear the case in their next term, which starts in October, meaning the dispute is unlikely to be resolved before the Nov. 3 election, in which the Republican president is seeking a second four-year term in office.

In the meantime, the materials will not be handed over to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which issued a subpoena for them last year.

The court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, including two justices appointed by Trump, took up the administration’s appeal of a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that material must be given to lawmakers.

Mueller submitted his report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr in March 2019 after a 22-month investigation that detailed Russian hacking and propaganda efforts to boost Trump’s candidacy as well as multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Barr, a Trump appointee who Democrats have accused of trying to protect the president politically, released Mueller’s 448-page report in April 2019 with some parts redacted.

Democrats have expressed concern that Barr used the redaction process to keep potentially damaging information about Trump secret.

The redactions were made, according to Barr, in part to protect the customary secrecy of grand jury materials.

The Judiciary Committee, last year, subpoenaed the redacted grand jury material as part of a bid by Democrats to build a case for removing Trump from office through impeachment.

The House impeached Trump in December on two charges unrelated to Russian election meddling.

The Republican-led Senate acquitted him and left him in office in February.

The D.C. Circuit agreed with a judge’s decision that the House, in its impeachment investigation, was engaged in a judicial proceeding exempt from secrecy rules that typically shield grand jury material from disclosure.

On May 20, the Supreme Court put the appeals court ruling on hold while it considered whether to hear the case.

The Supreme Court is due to rule in the coming days on another showdown between Trump and congressional Democrats, this time over whether House committees can obtain, through subpoena, Trump’s financial records from his long-time accounting firm, Mazars LLP.

The justices are also weighing a related case on whether a New York grand jury can subpoena similar documents from Mazars and two banks. (Reuters/NAN)

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