WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday issued a stay that blocks the release to a congressional committee of an unredacted copy of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday ordered President Donald Trump’s administration to hand over by Wednesday a copy of the Mueller report that included material that had been blacked out.
The Justice Department requested the stay by the Court of Appeals in Washington while it appeals Howell’s ruling.
The department is trying to block Democrats from accessing the full Mueller report on the grounds that doing so would require the disclosure of secret grand jury materials and potentially harm ongoing investigations.
The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena seeking the full report as part of Democrats’ effort to build a case for removing Trump from office through impeachment.
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, released the 448-page report in April with some parts redacted.
The House impeachment inquiry centres not on the findings of the Mueller report but on Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. House Democrats have described that as an improper solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election.
In her ruling on Friday, Howell also said the House need not pass a resolution formally initiating its impeachment inquiry, undercutting an argument that Trump’s fellow Republicans have made in attacking the probe.
Democrats began the inquiry without putting such a resolution to a vote, but on Tuesday they unveiled legislation laying out procedures for the probe that could be voted on a early as this week.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)