Justice Wants Mueller Material Sealed While Fighting Impeachment Probe

President Donald Trump walks out of the North Portico of the White House in Washington on Monday to travel to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Justice Department on Monday continued its fight to keep secret the transcripts underlying the Mueller investigation.

The department asked for a stay of Friday’s ruling by Judge Beryl Howell who said the House Judiciary Committee satisfied the requirements for the release of grand jury transcripts underlying the Mueller report.

In her 75-page ruling, the judge referred to some of the department’s arguments as “farce.” And in her motion to stay the ruling, the government lawyer referred to the judge as a “speed bump.”

“This Court has expressed the view that it ‘is a speed bump on the way to the Circuit for review,’” said the motion by Elizabeth Shapiro, counsel to the Justice Department. “Rather than direct the Department to furnish the Committee with information to which the Department believes the Committee is not entitled, this Court should maintain the status quo pending appeal.”

The motion argued that the information once released would be forever public.

“Once the information is disclosed, it cannot be recalled, and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time,” said the motion for a stay, noting that the judiciary committee has argued that it can make its investigation public with the vote of a simple majority.

Monday’s motion to stay that ruling argued that the impeachment investigation will likely drag into 2020, making the Wednesday disclosure deadline premature.

House Democrats opened the investigation to nail down whether Trump sought an illegal quid pro quo from the Ukrainian government earlier this summer. It is undisputed that Trump kept Ukraine waiting months for military aid awarded by Congress while urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner in the 2020 presidential race.

The Justice Department said Monday that Muller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has taken a back seat to the new inquiry.

“Although the HJC claims that it needs the information promptly because it continues to investigate matters connected to the Mueller report, there appears little dispute that, for now, that investigation is secondary, and Congressman Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee — not the Judiciary Committee — is the lead committee heading the congressional investigation,” the motion states.

Howell, an Obama appointee, showed little patience in her ruling filed Friday for the Justice Department’s assertion that the House Judiciary Committee failed to demonstrate a particularized need for material that had been redacted from the Mueller report.

The “arguments smack of farce,” she wrote.

“The reality is that DOJ and the White House have been openly stonewalling the House’s efforts to get information by subpoena and by agreement, and the White House has flatly stated that the Administration will not cooperate with congressional requests for information,” the 75-page opinion continued.

Howell also said access to the grand jury material will equip lawmakers to gather evidence that the special counsel did not pursue, potentially answering the question Mueller left unanswered: whether the president committed an impeachable offense.

“Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” Howell wrote.

Howell ordered the committee to respond to the Justice Department’s stay request by noon on Oct. 29.

The Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

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