A court ruling in an obscure case that threw a roadblock before House Democrats' efforts to obtain secret grand jury information from Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation will remain in place, as the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will not hear the case.
The case, McKeever v. Barr, has nothing at all to do with Mueller, Russia or President Trump, but rather it involves one man's quest for records related to the 1956 disappearance of Columbia University professor Jesus de Galindez and the secrecy surrounding grand jury testimony.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a court cannot order the release of grand jury information -- which is typically kept secret -- except in specific situations outlined in Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 6(e). Other circuits have ruled differently, stating that courts have an inherent authority to release secret grand jury material.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in a statement Tuesday that an advisory committee for these rules is best-positioned to bring clarity to the issue -- not the court. The committee has in the past appeared to side with those other circuits, he noted.
"Whether district courts retain authority to release grand jury material outside those situations specifically enumerated in the Rules, or in situations like this, is an important question," he wrote. "It is one I think the Rules Committee both can and should revisit."
The ruling means that McKeever will not be able to access the grand jury information related to the Galindez case, which he was after as part of his effort to publish his book, “The Galindez Case,” which was released way back in 2013.
“My book is done. But I wasn’t going to let this part of my efforts go, without finishing the pursuit of my journey,” McKeever said in a 2018 phone interview with Fox News. McKeever says the FBI has tried all along to keep a lid on the details. For decades, he has reviewed records related to the case.
He recalled one “striking moment” from his search in the early '80s: “When I went to the court archives to examine trial records, the clerk asked, ‘why do you want to see these records?’ I said, ‘why are you asking me that?’ The answer was ‘to let the CIA know you want to see these records.’”
“That said to me, keep on going,” McKeever said. Now, however, he appears to be out of options.
The case popped on the radar of those following the Russia probe because of House Democrats' efforts to see the grand jury testimony from Mueller's investigation.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have claimed that the court should release the information because their impeachment inquiry fell under the category of "judicial proceedings." A district court ruling agreed and said the secret material should be released, but the Justice Department is currently challenging the case before the D.C. Circuit.
The DOJ is arguing that the House's impeachment inquiry does not qualify as a judicial proceeding. They also claim that because the House's impeachment inquiry already yielded two articles of impeachment that had nothing to do with Mueller's report, they should not be able to access the grand jury information.
The House Democrats claimed that their investigation remains ongoing and that additional articles of impeachment remain a possibility.
The Supreme Court's decision not to take up McKeever's case does not by itself negatively impact the Democrats' efforts, but if the court had agreed to hear the case and then ruled in McKeever's favor, it would have made their claim for the grand jury material stronger by eliminating the controversy over whether the impeachment inquiry qualifies as a judicial proceeding.
A three-judge panel that included a Trump appointee heard oral arguments in the House Judiciary Committee's case on Jan. 3. The panel appeared divided and did not immediately issue a ruling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.