A federal appeals court has granted the Justice Department an extra 10 days to provide Congress with the redacted grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, setting up a potential battle for the secret documents before the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a brief order Friday it would give the Justice Department time to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Department attorneys are seeking to overturn an earlier decision from a lower court requiring it to turn over the sealed materials.
The Justice Department said last month that it plans to petition the Supreme Court after a D.C. Circuit panel ruled the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to the documents as part of its impeachment inquiry.
In a filing last month, the department said the questions surrounding this case are “of great significance to all three branches of government, as well as the functioning of the grand jury system.”
“Whether and under what circumstances Congress may resort to the courts to seek grand jury materials generated in a criminal investigation in aid of an impeachment inquiry is plainly a question of great significance to all three branches of government, as well as to the functioning of the grand jury system in high-profile, politically-charged matters,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.
A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 earlier this year that the House was entitled to the materials because it was for legitimate investigative purposes.
“The Department has objected to disclosure of the redacted grand jury materials, but the Department has no interest in objecting to the release of these materials outside of the general purposes and policies of grand jury secrecy, which as discussed, do not outweigh the Committee’s compelling need for disclosure,” Judge Judith Rogers, a President Clinton appointee, wrote in an opinion for the majority.
“Special Counsel Mueller prepared his Report with the expectation that Congress would review it,” she added.
House Democrats said at the time of the lawsuit they needed the materials for their impeachment probe. Although impeachment ended with a Senate acquittal, they say the material is still necessary to investigate President Trump for possible obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation.
The Justice Department maintains that once the grand jury materials are turned over to Congress, they could eventually be leaked to the public. Federal law prohibits the disclosure of confidential grand jury materials.
The fight over the Mueller grand jury materials is one of a handful of court fights between the Trump administration and the Democratic-led House.
Last week the Justice Department fought to keep the federal courts out of Democrats demand for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.
The Supreme Court later this month will hear oral arguments in a series of cases involving subpoena’s for Mr. Trump’s tax and financial records.
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