New Lawsuit Seeks Perry and Brouillette Ukraine Documents and Communications about Biden Investigation Effort

American Oversight today sued the Department of Energy to release records of the May 2019 delegation to Ukraine led by outgoing Secretary Rick Perry — who last week announced that he will not cooperate with the ongoing congressional impeachment investigation and will refuse to turn over requested documents.

American Oversight filed two Freedom of Information Act requests in August, for which the Department of Energy has so far failed to provide responsive records. After the White House’s release of a rough transcript of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, American Oversight requested expedited processing of those requests.

Today’s lawsuit asks a federal court to order expedited processing of six additional FOIA requests, seeking documents from Perry, Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette (whom Trump announced as Perry’s successor), and other officials related to the Trump administration’s effort to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. Under the FOIA statute, requesters can seek expedited processing when there is urgent public interest in the release of documents. Despite the rapidly advancing impeachment inquiry, the Energy Department told American Oversight that there is no urgent need for the public to see the requested Ukraine records.

There is increasing evidence that Perry was a central figure in running the Trump administration’s Ukraine policy. According to reports describing testimony given to congressional investigators, Perry was one of the “three amigos” — along with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker — whom the White House put in charge of managing the plan to pressure Ukraine.

Public reports indicate that Perry met with Ukrainian officials four times in 2019. In addition to the May delegation to attend Zelensky’s inauguration, Perry had dinner with Zelenksy in Belgium on or around June 4, met with Ukrainian officials in Poland around Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, and again met Ukrainian officials in Lithuania on or around Oct. 7.

American Oversight also previously uncovered Energy Department calendars showing that Perry and a senior aide met with senior executives from the Ukrainian state-owned energy company, Naftogaz, in 2017.

“It simply isn’t believable that Rick Perry was so heavily involved in dealing with Ukraine yet knew nothing about the push for a political investigation,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Running back to Texas isn’t going to make the questions stop. If Rick Perry isn’t going to answer questions from Congress about his contacts with Ukraine, we’ll have to let his emails do the talking for him. ‘Oops’ isn’t going to cut it this time.”

Documents sought by American Oversight in this lawsuit include:

  • Communications between Perry, Brouillette, or former Energy Department chief of staff Brian McCormack and various contacts outside the government, including Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz as well as Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the recently arrested associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani;
  • Emails sent by Perry, Brouillette, and McCormack containing any of three dozen terms, including “Biden,” “Giuliani,” or “Zelensky”;
  • Perry’s, Brouillette’s, and McCormack’s records relating to meetings that Perry held with Ukrainian officials on four occasions in 2019, including briefing materials, meeting summaries, communications about the meetings, and expense records;
  • Perry’s and McCormack’s communications either with Giuliani or about any efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open a political investigation; and
  • Any guidance or directives issued to or by McCormack with relation to former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or Burisma Holdings.

American Oversight has filed two other lawsuits seeking Ukraine-related records from the State Department, including any of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s communications with Giuliani. On Wednesday, American Oversight’s legal team will be in court for a hearing on an emergency motion to compel the State Department to begin rapidly processing and releasing those and other documents.

The complaint filed by American Oversight today against the Department of Energy is available here.

More details on American Oversight’s investigation into the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine can be found here.

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