There was an odd moment this weekend when a member of Congress, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., NJ), asked New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to set up a grand jury to come up with the charges against President Donald Trump and US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to investigate "The Subversion" of the upcoming election. From a Madisonian point of view is a member of Congress calling on a grand jury to investigate the wrongdoing of a federal agency, like NASA calling on NOAA to explore Mars. Pascrell is a seated member in a house. controlled by its own party with the constitutional supervisory authority over the postal service. Our system of separation of powers transfers this question to the political branches rather than to the criminalization of political disputes.
A grand jury usually requires proof of an actual crime, not a future crime or the possibility of an unknown crime. The basis of this strange referral is a political struggle for additional funding that Trump is willing to approve as part of an overall deal. I agree that the President's previous statements about the postal service have recklessly raised concerns that he might use the agency to obstruct postal voting. However, Pascrell is calling on a grand jury to investigate what is currently a negotiating position in an ongoing appropriation battle. Such an approach would require half of the country to occupy large juries to process the recommendations of Congress.
"I urge you to conduct a full investigation into Trump's actions to interfere in our elections and to appoint a grand jury to consider criminal charges against Donald Trump, US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. The reversal of the New Jersey state elections … We don't have much time to prepare, and our state, like others, will be absolutely dependent on the efficiency of the USPS. In the midst of this ongoing pandemic, the USPS will be the electoral heart and engine of the election machinery in New Jersey and America. "
In his letter below, criminal provisions were cited that did not criminalize a political decision on funding. These include Title 19: 34-20 (solicitation or procurement or assistance in unlawful registration of other violations of the electoral law); Title 19: 34-29 (obstruction or disturbance of the voter); Title 19: 34-35 (impairment of the conduct of elections); Title 19: 53A-15 (manipulation or willful violation of documents or equipment or impairment of the conduct of elections); and Title 19: 63-28 (Offenses, Third Degree Crimes).
Pascrell therefore suggests that a president holding back billions in new funds should commit electoral crimes despite cursing the postal service as a failed agency since his first candidacy. He would also be investigated, although he said he would approve the funding if the Democrats dropped other demands.
When evidence of actual crimes emerges, such a large jury could be put in place. However, this is currently a political dispute amid negotiations between the two political branches.