24 October 2019 - 17:41
News ID: 447561
A
The State Department must begin turning over documents related to the Donald Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine within 30 days, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

RNA - American Oversight, an ethics watchdog organization, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department in early October in an attempt to gain access to documents related to communications between Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and top State Department officials regarding Ukraine, The Hill reported.

The group also requested records related to the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine.

US 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.

Cooper reportedly advised American Oversight to meet with the government to narrow the request.

“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. The court recognized the importance of these documents and the need for the State Department to rapidly release them, and American Oversight will continue fighting to make sure the truth comes out,” Evers added.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Cooper's ruling comes weeks into House Democrats' formal impeachment inquiry, which is centered around a whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son over unfounded allegations of corruption. 

A group of House committees has issued deposition and documents requests to numerous administration officials as part of the inquiry. The House Foreign Affairs Committee subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in late September for documents related to the administration's dealings with Ukraine, though he has refused to comply with the demand. 

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, sent a letter to the State Department on Wednesday renewing their demand for records.

The committee chairs announced in the letter that they had identified specific documents in the control of the State Department that are "directly and highly relevant to the [impeachment] inquiry”.

“The Committees consider the refusal to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena as obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress and of the impeachment inquiry,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Despite the White House's efforts to prevent cooperation with the impeachment inquiry, several former and current administration officials have privately testified before Congress.

On Tuesday, William Taylor, a top US diplomat in Ukraine, testified that he was told nearly $400 million in Ukrainian military aid was conditioned on the nation publicly declaring investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. 

Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, told Taylor that Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "'in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations", Taylor said in his opening statement.

Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of a quid pro quo. 

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