Order comes in response to an oversight watchdog’s lawsuit.
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the State Department must begin producing documents related to Ukraine within 30 days, following a watchdog’s Freedom of Information Act requests.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in American Oversight’s lawsuit involves two of the watchdog’s 50-plus FOIA requests related to the Trump administration’s alleged pressure on Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden's son. Trump’s actions related to Ukraine are now the subject of an impeachment inquiry.
This lawsuit (one of several related to the matter) sought senior officials’ communication with and about the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, or other efforts to pressure Ukraine, as well as communication about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s recall. After submitting FOIA requests in May and then a request to expedite the case in September, the watchdog filed a lawsuit against the State Department in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Oct. 1.
“Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight executive director, in a press release on the district court’s ruling. “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.”
This ruling comes as past and present officials testifying before the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry hearings are shedding new light on the president’s handling of Ukraine. The State Department attempted to block Yovanovitch as well as other officials from testifying, but the House subpoenaed them. During her opening statement on Oct. 11, Yovanovitch said there was “a concerted campaign” against her that she believed was based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Giuliani said last week he will not comply with a congressional subpoena for documents and his attorney wrote the impeachment inquiry was “unconstitutional, baseless and illegitimate.”