Washington, DC, Oct. 1, 2019 – Nonpartisan watchdog American Oversight today sued the State Department to compel the release of Rudy Giuliani’s communications with senior department officials as well as other communications about any attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son. The lawsuit also seeks records regarding the recall of the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, as well as communications between the State Department and President Trump’s personal attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova.
The lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks a federal judge to order the State Department to comply with two Freedom of Information Act requests filed by American Oversight in May 2019 shortly after Giuliani announced plans to travel to Ukraine to urge an investigation of Biden.
“This wasn’t just one phone call or Rudy Giuliani acting on his own. This was a months-long, coordinated effort across multiple federal departments that hijacked American foreign policy to benefit Trump’s campaign, and the public needs to know who else was involved,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “We need a full accounting of what government resources were used as muscle behind the president’s efforts to abuse his power for his own personal and partisan interests at the expense of our national security.”
Despite near-daily revelations of the extent of President Trump’s personal involvement – and Giuliani’s televised release of text messages showing his contacts with the State Department – it is not yet known how many other Trump administration officials took part in the Ukraine effort and whether it went beyond the withholding of military aid.
American Oversight’s lawsuit hopes to shed light on key unanswered questions including:
How involved were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or other senior State Department officials in coordinating the effort to influence Ukraine?
Giuliani has boasted on television that he was “operating at the request of the State Department.” News reports indicate that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened to President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – contrary to his initial claims that he was unfamiliar with the whistleblower report. American Oversight’s lawsuit seeks communications about Giuliani or the Ukraine effort from Pompeo as well as Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Counselor to the Secretary T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, as well as other members of the State Department Senior Staff.
Are there other transcripts or accounts of President Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky?
According to the whistleblower complaint, Brechbuhl listened to that phone call. American Oversight’s lawsuit seeks copies of records reflecting any communications of Brechbuhl or Pompeo regarding plans by Giuliani to communicate with Ukraine or any other effort to encourage the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden – which would clearly include any communications regarding Trump’s call.
Why was Ambassador Yovanovitch recalled and was that decision directly related to the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden?
In the call memorandum released by the White House last week, Trump referred to Yovanovitch as “bad news” immediately before asking the Ukrainian president to “look into” an investigation of Biden and his son. American Oversight’s lawsuit seeks correspondence of Secretary Pompeo and other senior officials regarding Yovanovitch; communications between the State Department and the White House about the recall; and cables, emails, and letters sent to or from Yovanovitch during her final two weeks as ambassador.
What role did President Trump’s personal attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova play in the effort to pressure the Ukrainian government?
On September 29th, Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace reported that US officials had confirmed President Donald Trump had worked with lawyers Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing as conduits between himself and Ukraine. Toensing and diGenova have histories of pushing conspiracies theories about efforts within the government to frame, discredit, and remove President Trump. American Oversight’s lawsuit seeks to compel the State Department to release communications between the department and Toensing or diGenova.
American Oversight is also investigating whether the Justice Department – and specifically U.S. Attorney John Durham – participated in Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. The whistleblower complaint noted that Giuliani had told Fox News on August 8 that Durham was “spending a lot of time in Europe” and was “investigating Ukraine.” Recent news reporting has indicated that Durham is investigating Ukraine’s role in the early stages of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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In August 2019, American Oversight filed two lawsuits seeking “all directives or guidance” provided to Durham for his investigation – as well as any communications between Durham and Attorney General William Barr or the White House.
In addition to the above litigation, American Oversight has submitted 27 further FOIA requests to the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Energy, and Defense, as well as the Office of Management and Budget regarding the Ukraine effort. Those requests seek documents including the communications former United States Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker with Giuliani or about other efforts to influence Ukraine to investigate Biden, Volker’s calendars from the relevant time period, Justice Department communications about the whistleblower memo, and records from the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget regarding the withholding of military aid. If the Trump administration fails to respond to those requests and release records as required by law, the watchdog group is prepared to pursue further litigation to ensure that the public learns the truth.
Today’s lawsuit is available here: https://www.americanoversight.org/document/complaint-american-oversight-v-state-ukraine-communications-with-state-department-officials
More details about American Oversight’s investigation can be found here: https://www.americanoversight.org/investigation/the-trump-administrations-contacts-with-ukraine
American Oversight is a non-partisan, nonprofit ethics watchdog and is the top Freedom of Information Act litigator investigating the Trump administration. American Oversight has filed more than 100 public records lawsuits since March 2017, uncovering and publishing tens of thousands of documents including senior officials’ calendars, emails, and expense records. Through its Parallel Investigations Initiative, American Oversight uses targeted FOIA requests and litigation to prevent the Trump administration from obstructing congressional oversight. Follow us at @weareoversight and learn more at http://www.americanoversight.org.