House Wins Access to Secret Mueller Grand Jury Docs

Federal appeals court says Justice Department must turn testimony over
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 10, 2020 2:05 PM CDT
House Wins Access to Mueller Probe Grand Jury Testimony
In this April 18, 2019, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is photographed in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

The Justice Department must give Congress secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, giving the House a significant win in a separation-of-powers clash with the Trump administration. The three-judge panel said in a 2-1 opinion that the House Judiciary Committee's need for the material in its investigations of President Trump outweighed the Justice Department's interests in keeping the testimony secret, the AP reports. The opinion authorizes access to information that Democrats have sought since the conclusion of Mueller's investigation, giving lawmakers previously-undisclosed details from the two-year Russia probe. It's unclear what the House will actually do with the material. Lawyers for the Democrats have said the grand jury material could potentially be used for additional articles of impeachment, though Trump has already been acquitted.

Writing for the majority, Judge Judith Rogers said that because Mueller himself "stopped short" of reaching conclusions about Trump's conduct to avoid stepping on the House's impeachment power, the committee had established that it could not make a final determination about Trump's conduct without access to the underlying grand jury material. It is unclear when the materials might actually be turned over. The Trump administration can ask the full appeals court to rehear the case, and can appeal to the Supreme Court. The ruling softens the blow of a loss the House endured two weeks ago when judges on the same court said they would not force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress. The split decisions leave neither the administration nor Congress with a clear upper hand in an ongoing inter-branch dispute.

(More Mueller report stories.)

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