WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday said it has appealed a judge’s ruling ordering it to turn over an unredacted copy of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to a Democratic-led congressional committee.
The Justice Department simultaneously asked U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell as well as an appellate court to put on hold her Friday order while the appeal is pending.
Howell’s ruling directed the administration to turn over the unredacted report to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee by Wednesday, while also validating the legality of the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
The department previously tried to block Democrats from accessing the full Mueller report, saying that doing so would require the disclosure of secret grand jury materials and potentially harm ongoing investigations. The Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena seeking the full report.
“A stay is warranted because, without a stay, the department will be irreparably harmed,” the department wrote in a 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 department also wrote that Howell’s ruling represented “an extraordinary abrogation of grand jury secrecy.”
The judge ordered the House Judiciary Committee to respond to the department’s requested stay by noon (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.
The administration’s appeal of the ruling went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
The Justice Department said in one of its court filings that the Judiciary Committee plans to oppose its request to stay the judge’s ruling, but that lawmakers on that panel agreed to a pause until they make their filing on the matter by Friday afternoon.
Last week’s scathing 75-page opinion by Howell, the chief judge in her federal judicial district, blasted the White House and Justice Department for “stonewalling” House subpoenas for information in the impeachment inquiry and declared that there was no need for the House to pass a resolution formally launching the probe.
The House did not vote on such a resolution before Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry in September - drawing the ire of Republicans - but plans to bring a resolution to the House floor this week affirming the probe.
The department argued to the appellate court that Howell “erroneously decided” that the committee’s investigation was part of a lawful impeachment inquiry that justifies the demand for access to the full Mueller report.
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 as well as extensive contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
Barr, a Trump appointee who Democrats have accused of trying to protect the president politically, in April released the 448-page report with some parts blacked out, or redacted.
The current impeachment inquiry centers not on the findings of the Mueller report, but on Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, a move that House Democrats have described as an improper solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Will Dunham