Democrats should get Mueller evidence, judges rule

Source: Politico | March 10, 2020 | Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney

It’s a notable win for House Democrats seeking to obtain more information from the Russia probe.

House Democrats scored a significant legal victory Tuesday as a federal appeals court panel granted them permission to access grand jury secrets from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

The 2-1 ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the House’s ability to see the deleted passages in the public version of the Mueller report, the 448-page tome that describes the two-year investigation into potential links between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report, released in April 2019, also examines President Donald Trump’s attempts to stymie the Russia probe.

If it stands, the ruling would give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and entire pages — nearly 1,000 portions in all — as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s review.

The Democrats’ courtroom win, nearly a year in the making, is a symbolic blow to Trump and his sweeping claims that his administration can block Congress from talking to witnesses and accessing information.

But the sting was largely taken out of the decision by the fact it came nearly five weeks after the Senate acquitted Trump on largely unrelated impeachment articles involving his dealings with Ukraine. It also came just over a week after the House suffered a major court loss in its drive to force testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, one of Mueller’s star witnesses.

The House’s victory Tuesday is also no guarantee that lawmakers will get to immediately see the full range of Mueller’s evidence. Appeals from the Justice Department are all but certain, and the case could still face Supreme Court review.

However, peeking behind the deletions could shed further light on the Trump campaign’s attempts to connect with WikiLeaks, or the infamous Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign staffers and a Russian attorney promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent.

On Tuesday, the majority of the appeals court said the theoretical possibility of further impeachment proceedings was sufficient to authorize the release of the grand jury secrets. Judges, according to the majority opinion, should not “micromanage” the House’s need for information in the context of an impeachment investigation.

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