Appeals court temporarily blocks release of Mueller grand jury material to Democrats

A federal appeals court in Washington has issued a stay blocking, for the moment, the release of redacted grand jury material from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia election meddling probe.

The three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay pending an appeal from the Justice Department and said the ruling should not be “construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.”

It comes after U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled Friday that the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee can have access to the material, giving the Justice Department until Wednesday to turn over the redacted portions of the grand jury material sought by the committee. The Justice Department has signaled its intent to appeal the ruling.

Friday’s ruling was a key win for Democrats as the House Judiciary Committee begins to tackle articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Mueller found no evidence that Trump conspired with Russia in the 2016 election, but did not come to a finding as to whether the president obstructed justice.

Even though the Mueller probe is separate from what the House Intelligence Committee is probing in relation to the president’s recent actions toward Ukraine, potential information in the Mueller grand jury documents could also help the committee craft articles of impeachment – specifically an article dealing with obstruction of Congress.

Democrats had requested that the department provide the material, which was redacted from Mueller’s report, as part of their ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The material covered by Howell’s order includes redacted grand jury material mentioned in Mueller’s report, which is the only piece of the document that Democrats have yet to see.

Justice Department lawyers argued against providing the materials at a hearing earlier this month. They said House Democrats already had sufficient evidence from Mueller’s investigation, including copies of summaries of FBI witness interviews.