Democrats to get a less redacted Mueller report for impeachment inquiry

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for South Carolina.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for South Carolina.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Congressional Democrats reviewing possible impeachment of President Donald Trump won a court order compelling the US Justice Department to turn over grand-jury materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

The House Judiciary Committee had shown "that it needs the grand-jury material referenced and cited in the Mueller Report to avoid a possible injustice in the impeachment inquiry," Beryl Howell, chief judge of the US District Court in Washington, said on Friday (Oct 25) in a 75-page ruling.

The Justice Department had opposed the request, citing the need to preserve grand-jury secrecy.

It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

The committee, led by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, sued to force release of information underpinning Mueller's report in July.

It gained greater urgency two months later when a whistle-blower claimed Trump tied US$391 million (S$530 million) in aid to Ukraine to its willingness to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

That prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to start a formal impeachment inquiry.

In his 448-page report made public in April, Mueller said there was insufficient evidence to show Trump or anyone working on his campaign had collaborated with Russia's efforts to disrupt the election but the special counsel pointedly declined to say that Trump had not obstructed the investigation.

With large swathes of the document blacked out to preserve grand jury secrecy and information related to ongoing cases and investigations, the Judiciary Committee petitioned the court for the release of more information.

 

The Democrats said in the lawsuit that they are seeking access to "all underlying grand jury materials that bear directly on President Trump's knowledge of any potential misconduct during the 2016 election campaign and afterward - and, thus, bear directly on the president's state of mind at the time of relevant events."