On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released its report on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, citing both the president’s solicitation of foreign election interference and his administration’s wholescale obstruction of Congress’s investigation.
Obstruction of justice was also included as an article of impeachment in the impeachment of both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, although, as the report notes, “Unlike President Trump, past Presidents who were the subject of impeachment inquiries … recognized and, to varying degrees, complied with information requests and subpoenas.”
Trump, on the other hand, has refused to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents, and the White House even ordered officials not to testify if they themselves are subpoenaed. The committee’s impeachment report specifically mentions the nearly 100 pages of State Department records American Oversight has obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation — including records of calls between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani — as evidence that the administration is refusing to turn over key files to Congress.
From page 224 of the report:
On November 22, the Department produced 99 pages of emails, letters, notes, timelines, and news articles to a non-partisan, nonprofit ethics watchdog organization pursuant to a court order in a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This handful of documents was limited to a narrow window of time and specific people, but it clearly indicates that the Department is withholding documents that are responsive to the Committees’ requests.
For example, the Department’s FOIA production contains an email from the Office Manager to the Secretary of State to “S_All” sent on March 26 which states that “S is speaking with Rudy Giuliani.” It also contains a March 27 email in which Madeleine Westerhout, the Personal Secretary to President Trump, facilitates another phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary Pompeo. These documents are directly responsive to the September 27 subpoena … .”
That production of documents, of course, is just the first of what will be many more releases of records. The evidence against the president will grow and likely become more damning. But importantly, the release of those documents to American Oversight, as noted in a recent article by Executive Director Austin Evers, “shows conclusively why the administration’s conduct qualifies as obstruction.” There is no legal justification for the administration having withheld the records from Congress, a co-equal branch of government that is constitutionally obligated to oversee the executive branch.
“The White House fought to block Congress from obtaining any documents related to Ukraine only to watch as the public forced their release through the courts,” said Evers in a statement on Tuesday. “The president may want to re-evaluate his strategy of total obstruction if it is going to be ineffective and used as evidence of his wrongdoing by Congress.”
The Intelligence Committee’s report, besides making the case for Trump’s obstruction of justice, also laid out in great detail the evidence of the president’s having withheld congressionally appropriated military aid for Ukraine as well as a White House meeting in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation into political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son. “President Trump does not appear to believe there is any such limitation on his power to use White House meetings, military aid or other official acts to procure foreign help in his reelection,” the report said.
“The documents cited in the Intelligence Committee’s report represent just the first round of disclosures American Oversight expects to obtain from the administration,” Evers’s statement continued. “With multiple lawsuits pending and untold numbers of documents still under lock and key, the fight to uncover the facts is only beginning.”
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