One of the more compelling bits of drama coming out of the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation this summer has been the question of Bob Mueller’s highly anticipated “report” on the findings of the grand jury. Rudy Giuliani has argued that he has to release it by this week or sit on it until after the midterms. (A claim with some basis in reality but not a rule written in stone.) Others have argued that politics shouldn’t set the timetable for anything in terms of upholding the law. But is there even a report? Thus far, Mueller’s been silent on the matter.
Assuming there is, however, there’s a completely separate court case drawing to a close in the next month which could keep any report Mueller generates under wraps. Politico has a fascinating look at a mystery that’s over six decades old and a lawsuit arising from it which could seal the report from the prying eyes of the public and the press.
A little-noticed court case stemming from the apparent murder of a Columbia University professor six decades ago could keep special counsel Robert Mueller from publishing any information about the Trump campaign and Russia that he obtains through a Washington grand jury.
The substance of the case is entirely unrelated to Mueller’s investigation into whether any of President Donald Trump’s associates aided Russia’s efforts to intervene in the 2016 election.
But if a Washington appeals court set to hear the murder-related case next month sides with the Justice Department and rules that judges don’t have the freedom to release grand jury information that is usually kept secret, it could throw a monkey wrench into any plans Mueller has to issue a public report on his probe’s findings, lawyers following the issue said.
And it might even keep the special counsel from sending a report to Congress, shaking Democrats’ hopes that such a document could provide the impetus for impeachment proceedings against the president.
The short version of the mystery is that it began in 1959 when Columbia University professor Jesus Galindez went missing in New York City. His body was never found, but it was reported that he’d been kidnapped, flow to the Dominican Republic and possibly murdered there. An author named Stuart McKeever has been exploring the mystery for the past four decades and he wants the see the findings of a grand jury which looked into the mystery many years ago. (While failing to solve the issue.) But the Justice Department is fighting him in court, saying that the findings of such grand jury proceedings must remain secret except under very specific provisions.
If the Juste Department prevails and keeps that grand jury report under wraps, they can just as easily argue that the findings of Mueller’s grand jury must also remain secret. As Politico details nicely, there used to be a law allowing disclosure of grand jury reports to Congress in the case of special counsel investigations, but that law expired in 1999. The existing rules for appointing a special counsel contain no such provision allowing for a report or the breaking of the secrecy of the grand jury.
So where does that leave us? We will certainly find out which people the grand jury finds sufficient grounds to charge (such as Manafort and Cohen) when the charges are brought against them. But all of the other details which were examined and possible revelations made would seemingly have to remain under wraps. This is bad news for the public and both sides of political battle we’re currently embroiled in. If no new dirt can be revealed, Trump and his team may chalkd that up as a win. But if there was information in there vindicating him, he loses that as well. Meanwhile, “unnamed sources” will be leaking carefully selected details to CNN and the New York Times. Absent a full report, the Democrats will be free to just make things up as they go along.
I understand the need for secrecy when it comes to grand jury proceedings to avoid unfairly smearing people, exposing the identieis of witnesses and all the rest. But in this case, it’s probably not going to do much to serve the public interest if the Justice Department wins this suit and locks up Mueller’s report (along with all other grand jury reports) in the process.