Justice Dept. appeals order on Mueller grand jury testimony

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The Justice Department on Monday appealed a judge’s order directing the department to provide the House with secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The department also asked Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell to put her own order on hold until a federal appeals court has an opportunity to weigh in.

Howell on Friday directed the Justice Department to produce by Oct. 30 grand jury testimony referenced in Mueller’s report. That information could be of value to House lawmakers conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. She also affirmed the legality of the impeachment inquiry, saying no formal resolution by the House was necessary.

In court filings Monday, the Justice Department argued that once the grand jury material is released to the House Judiciary Committee, there is no guarantee it will remain secret “and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time.”

The filings also said there is no reason for the department to produce by the end of this week grand jury information when the impeachment inquiry is scheduled to last into 2020. They also say the Mueller investigation is “secondary” in the impeachment probe to questions about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, lessening the need for urgency.

“In order to reach the decision it did, the Court resolved difficult disputes between co-equal branches of government, including the question of what suffices to initiate the impeachment of a President,” Justice Department lawyers wrote. “The public interest lies in maintaining the status quo until an appellate court has had time to review and resolve these substantial legal questions.”

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