US judge orders secret Mueller probe evidence to be released

President Donald Trump has suffered a blow after a court ruling Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

A US judge has ordered the Justice Department to give secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to Congress.

The ruling is a victory for Democrats who want the testimony for the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Chief US District Judge Beryl Howell ordered the department to turn over the materials by October 30. A Justice Department spokeswoman said it was reviewing the decision.

The material covered by Judge Howell’s order includes redacted grand jury material mentioned in Mr Mueller’s report, which is the only piece of the document that Democrats have yet to see.

In a 75-page ruling accompanying the order, Judge Howell slashed through many of the administration’s arguments for withholding materials from Congress.

President Donald Trump is facing fresh pressure after a judge’s ruling. Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

While the Justice Department said it could not provide grand jury material under existing law, “DOJ is wrong,” she wrote.

And while the White House and its Republican allies argued impeachment is illegitimate without a formal vote, she later added: “A House resolution has never, in fact, been required.”

The judge also rejected the Justice Department’s argument that impeachment is not a “judicial proceeding” under the law, for which the information could be disclosed.

Justice Department lawyers argued against providing the materials at a hearing earlier this month. They said House Democrats already had sufficient evidence from Mr Mueller’s investigation, including copies of summaries of FBI witness interviews.

Many of the key witnesses in the Trump orbit, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, submitted to voluntary interviews before Mr Mueller’s team rather than appear before the grand jury, making it unclear how much significant new information tied to the president is contained in the grand jury transcripts.

The department had also argued that the House panel could not show how the material would help in the committee’s investigations of Mr Trump.