The Justice Department is pushing for rule changes that would impose a 50-year delay on when courts can consider releasing material from federal grand juries and would separately allow gag orders to be applied more broadly to witnesses, reports the Washington Post. Critics charge it would be a “significant expansion of secrecy” around federal courts and investigations. Much of what is said in court isn’t released to the public, but occasionally judges rule that some other interest merits the release of grand jury information. This occurred in special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation of then-President Donald Trump, when an appeals court found that some grand jury material should be shared with Congress as it prepared for Impeachment.
While the issue was declared moot after Congress competed impeachment proceedings, these proposed rules can push back disclosure about the Mueller probe of Russian “collusion” with the Trump campaign until 2069. Prosecutors and defense lawyers guard grand jury secrecy, often for different reasons ranging from law enforcement officials not wanting sensitive investigations to fall apart while lawyers don’t want their clients’ reputations damaged.