DOJ to appeal order to give Congress Mueller materials for Trump impeachment probe

Key Points
  • The fight over Mueller's grand jury materials is among those at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 
  • An appeal was expected.
Former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019, in Washington, DC.
SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images

The Department of Justice said Monday it will appeal a decision handed down by a federal judge in Washington last week that ordered the government to turn over normally secret information collected by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

The fight is among those at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. An appeal was expected.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington ordered the Justice Department on Friday to turn over grand jury materials to the House Judiciary Committee as part of the panel's impeachment investigation, noting that the materials could contain evidence of potentially impeachable conduct.

The ruling was significant also because it brushed aside arguments made by the president and his conservative allies that the impeachment probe was illegitimate. Howell, in her ruling, said the White House's refusal to comply with the impeachment process strengthened Democrats' arguments.

"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," she wrote.

House expected to vote on Trump impeachment inquiry

A spokesperson for Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Howell's order required the Justice Department to turn over the materials by Wednesday.

In a separate motion also filed on Monday, Justice Department attorneys asked Howell to temporarily halt that order pending review from an appeals court. Attorneys for the government argued that the impeachment probe has shifted its focus from Mueller to the president's dealings with Ukraine.

"Although the [House Judiciary Committee] claims that it needs the information promptly because it continues to investigate matters connected to the Mueller Report, there appears little dispute that, for now, that investigation is secondary, and Congressman [Adam] Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee — not the Judiciary Committee — is the lead committee heading the congressional investigation," attorneys for the Justice Department wrote.

The case will be appealed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

President Trump speaks to reporters about the impeachment inquiry