Judge Rules State Department Must Turn Over Ukraine Documents

Published on October 23, 2019 by Athena Pallas

Today U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled that the State Department must turn over documents related to the Trump administration’s dealings with the Ukraine. The judge gave the State Department 30 days to begin to comply. That ruling came as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by an ethics watchdog organization called American Oversight, which described today’s ruling, according to The Hill, as a “major setback for the White House’s stonewalling”.

Indeed the Trump administration has indicated it will not comply with the impeachment inquiry that has resulted from the Ukraine allegations, refusing to provide documents and testimony requested by Congress, and even in some cases defying congressional subpoenas. That battle is still underway, with some headway being made, at least with testimony, by the use of congressional subpoenas and by the willingness of some individuals to comply with requests to testify. Now a judge has ruled that the State Department must comply with this Freedom of Information Act request brought in the American Oversight lawsuit. In the Congressional battle for the information, the chairs of the three House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry also wrote the the State Department today again demanding compliance with their own requests. According to The Hill:

The State Department must begin turning over documents related to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine within 30 days, a judge ruled Wednesday. …U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled Wednesday that the records sought were of public importance and that the State Department needed to begin disclosing documents within 30 days, NBC New York reported. …“Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine,” Austin Evers, executive director at American Oversight, said in a statement to The Hill. “This is an important victory for the American people’s right to know the facts about Ukraine, and it is a major setback for the White House’s stonewalling.”… Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, (also) sent a letter to the State Department on Wednesday renewing their demand for records.

The requested documents in American Oversight’s lawsuit relate to two main subjects: Rudy Giuliani’s interactions with the State Department related to the alleged Ukraine quid pro quo scandal and records related to the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Giuliani and some of his associates were allegedly involved in a disinformation campaign regarding Yovanovitch aimed at getting her removed. Presumably the documents requested by the three House committees have a broader scope and may include more sensitive or classified documents than can be obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

It remains to be seen if the State Department will appeal today’s ruling.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.