WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Monday said it has appealed a lower court’s decision ordering it to turn over an unredacted copy of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 election to the Democratically-controlled House Judiciary Committee.
FILE PHOTO: Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller references a copy of his report as he testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
In a filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the department also asked the court to stay its Friday order which directed the government to turn over the unredacted report by Oct. 30 while its appeal is pending.
The lower court ruling was also significant because Howell validated the legality of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump by declaring the House does not need to approve a resolution formally initiating the effort.
The Justice department previously tried to block Democrats from accessing the full unredacted Mueller report, saying it would require the disclosure of secret grand jury materials and potentially harm ongoing investigations.
“A stay is warranted because, without a stay, the department will be irreparably harmed,” the department wrote in its notice to the court. “Once that information is disclosed, it cannot be recalled, and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time.”
The Justice Department’s appeal comes after the district’s Chief Judge Beryl Howell on Friday issued a scathing 75-page opinion blasting the White House and Justice Department for “stonewalling” efforts by House Democrats to get information through congressional subpoenas.
That decision validating the impeachment process undercuts claims by Trump’s Republican allies in Congress who have attacked the process Democrats have used.
The Justice Department, in its filing, also took a swipe at that part of Howell’s ruling.
“According to public statements made by the Speaker of the House, the Mueller report is not the current focus of impeachment activity,” the department wrote, adding that it believes the appellate court will agree that Democrats have “not demonstrated a particularized need for the grand jury information in light of the information already in the public domain and the much different focus of ongoing impeachment proceedings in the House.”
Mueller submitted his report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr in March after completing a 22-month investigation that detailed Russia’s campaign of hacking and propaganda to boost Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s investigation found insufficient evidence to establish that Trump and his campaign had engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.
The impeachment inquiry centers not on the Mueller report, but on Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by David Clarke and Bill Berkrot