DOJ appeals release of secret Mueller evidence

- Kevin Johnson

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge’s order directing the release of secret grand jury evidence gathered by special counsel Robert Mueller during an investigat­ion into Russia’s interferen­ce in the 2016 election.

Justice Department lawyers called for U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s decision to be set aside, arguing the department would be “irreparabl­y harmed” if the material is turned over to the House Judiciary Committee.

“Once the informatio­n is disclosed, it cannot be recalled and the confidenti­ality of the grand jury informatio­n will be lost for all time – particular­ly if the (House panel) decides to publicize the now-secret ... materials,” the government argued in court papers filed Monday.

The legal fight is viewed as a test of the legitimacy of the House impeachmen­t inquiry. Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., has argued the panel needs to review the evidence that Attorney General William Barr redacted from the report so committee members can review whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

The Justice Department claims Congress is not entitled to the informatio­n, which typically remains secret, because the House panel didn’t explain how the access would help its investigat­ion.

Friday, Howell ordered the Justice Department to disclose by Oct. 30 all portions of Mueller’s report that were redacted because of grand jury evidence, as well as underlying exhibits.

“The White House’s stated policy of non-cooperatio­n with the impeachmen­t inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure,” Howell wrote Friday. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachabl­e conduct by a president is heightened when the Executive Branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

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