A federal judge Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to disclose some material relating grand jury information from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell balked at the Justice Department’s appeal to deny a House Judiciary Committee request for grand jury materials, including redacted portions of Mueller’s report, ordering the department to reveal which and how many FBI witness interview reports have been turned over to the committee and how many they plan to turn over, The Washington Post reported.
The judge also said the department must explain why it was withholding interviews with witnesses who didn’t go before the grand jury.
Howell’s ruling came after hours of testimony from lawyers for House Democrats and the Justice Department.
"This is not a situation of us getting all sorts of materials," a lawyer for House Democrats said. "We're getting almost nothing."
The judge, appointed by former President Obama in 2010, called some of DOJ’s arguments for withholding information “extreme,” citing the department’s contention that some of the material from the Watergate grand jury should not have been turned over to Congress during the impeachment inquiry into former President Nixon.
“Wow, OK,” Howell said, according to The Post. “As I said, the department is taking extraordinary positions in this case.”
The Justice Department argued that a 1974 federal appeals court decision that said impeachment proceedings are exempt from grand jury secrecy rules is no longer valid because a U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this year tightened requirements to exclude impeachment proceedings.
The judge also ordered the DOJ to disclose by Friday whether the Mueller team had disclosed grand jury information when asking for help from other countries, explaining that she wanted to know if the DOJ was withholding information from Congress that had already been shared with foreign countries.
Republicans have also argued that a formal impeachment inquiry isn’t taking place until the House has a vote on impeachment. Democrats deny a vote needs to take place.
The judge hasn’t said when she’ll make a decision on whether DOJ has to turn over the material.
The lawsuit predates the impeachment inquiry into President Trump over a phone call with Ukraine’s president in which he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.