In filings with the Supreme Court Friday afternoon, the Justice Department offered to file publicly redacted court documents it had previously filed under seal in a grand jury dispute linked to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Most of what is known about the dispute comes from the judgment and redacted opinion of an appeals court panel that heard the case, and ruled against the foreign-state-owned corporation that challenged a grand jury subpoena. The corporation — whose identity and country of origin is still unknown — then turned to the Supreme Court seeking that it halt the lower court’s ruling and that it take up the case on the merits. The high court rejected the former request and is still weighing the latter.
Meanwhile, a press freedom group sought to intervene in the case to demand that the filings of the parties involved be unsealed. On Friday, in court fillings signed by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the Justice Department told the Supreme Court that such an intervention wasn’t necessary because the government was willing to file publicly redacted versions of its responses to the request by the company that the lower court’s ruling — which includes a fine on the company for resisting the subpoena — be temporarily blocked.
The filings have been redacted to “protect grand jury secrecy,” the Justice Department said. The Justice Department is also asking that the justices order the foreign company submit, within 10 days, redacted copies of its own filings for the government to review. Within the following 10 days, the government would suggest whatever additional redactions would be necessary, under the DOJ proposal
Additionally, the Justice Department argued Friday that the appeals court that issued a decision in the case is better suited to deal with any further requests that other documents be unsealed, given that the appeals court “has gained familiarity with the record by resolving the appeal on the merits and by preparing a redacted opinion. ”
The challenge was brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of Washington, D.C., ruled last fall in favor of upholding the subpoena, finding that the matter fell within an exception of the law. An appeals court, having heard highly secretive oral arguments where journalists were not even allowed to stake out the hallway of the courtroom, upheld her decision in December.
The dispute was first publicly linked to Mueller by Politico in October based on observations about how the case had proceeded up to that point. It has still not officially been confirmed to be related to a subpoena issued by Mueller’s grand jury; however, members of Mueller’s team have been spotted by reporters at the D.C. courthouse on days of key proceedings.
Read Friday’s DOJ filings with the Supreme Court below: