May 8, 2020 / 3:51 PM / a month ago

U.S. chief justice puts hold on disclosure of Russia investigation materials

FILE PHOTO: Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller references a copy of his report as he testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Office of Special Counsel's investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday put a temporary hold on the disclosure to a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee of grand jury material redacted from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The block will remain in place while the court considers what action to take. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in March that the materials had to be disclosed to the House Judiciary Committee and refused to put that decision on hold. The appeals court said the materials had to be handed over by May 11 if the Supreme Court did not intervene.

The committee’s lawyers have until May 18 to file their response to the Justice Department’s request to block the materials being immediately handed over, Roberts’ brief order said.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday is scheduled to hear another showdown between Trump and the House, this time over committee subpoenas seeking his financial documents from his accounting firm and two banks. On the same day, the court is also weighing an attempt by a New York grand jury to obtain Trump’s tax returns and related materials.

The court has a 5-4 conservative majority that includes two Trump appointees.

In the Mueller-related case, the appeals court in March upheld an Oct. 25 ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell against the administration’s bid to keep the redacted material secret.

The circuit court backed Howell’s decision to direct the administration to comply with a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee for the material blacked out of Mueller’s report. The court agreed with Howell’s decision that the House, in its impeachment investigation of Trump last year, was engaged in a judicial proceeding exempt from secrecy rules that typically shield grand jury materials from disclosure.

Trump’s administration has refused to comply with various House subpoenas for documents and testimony in a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool

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