News Roundup: Impeachment Report, Border Wall Contracts, and Pompeo’s Meeting with GOP Donors

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released its report on the impeachment inquiry, detailing evidence of President Donald Trump’s abuse of office and obstruction of congressional oversight.

In its report, the committee concluded that Trump had solicited foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, and that his administration had engaged in “an unprecedented campaign of obstruction” of the impeachment inquiry. 

Calling out the administration for failing “to produce a single document” in response to congressional subpoenas, the report cited the State Department documents that American Oversight obtained two weeks ago through Freedom of Information Act litigation. It referred to the records not just because of the factual information they contained, but because they are a clear indication that the administration was withholding records responsive to the committee’s requests.

Those documents contained records of late March calls between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as a call just a few days later between Pompeo and Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. (The Intelligence Committee also included in its report phone records it had obtained showing that Nunes had spoken with Giuliani several times in the spring, as well as with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.) And more evidence will almost certainly be unearthed. As the report notes, the records we published Nov. 22 were from a narrow window of time and limited to specific people.

American Oversight was back in court this week to fight for the release of additional State Department records, including communications involving Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, as well as Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) records related to the freezing of military aid to Ukraine this past summer. During a Friday status conference, a federal judge said he plans to order the Defense Department to make its first production of documents by Dec. 20, noting that the documents sought by American Oversight were of “particular national interest.” OMB has agreed to provide an update on its search for documents next Wed., Dec. 11.

The impeachment inquiry continues to move along at a fast pace. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held its first impeachment hearing, with four constitutional law experts as witnesses. And on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would be drawing up articles of impeachment against the president. Meanwhile, Giuliani has been back in Ukraine, this time to take part in a documentary meant to debunk the impeachment case.

And speaking of unexpected or unannounced trips to Europe, Pompeo made a secret fundraising stop this week — more about that, and other things we’re looking into, below:

Pompeo’s London Trip: The secretary of state attended an “off-the-books” meeting in London this week with wealthy conservative donors, a sign of the increasing likeliness that Pompeo is looking to run for Senate in Kansas next year. American Oversight has been investigating Pompeo’s political influences — and his various taxpayer-funded trips — to learn whether and to what extent his personal political ambitions have impacted U.S. policy. You can read more about that investigation here.

Barr’s (Non-) Recusal: Given Attorney General William Barr’s apparent involvement in matters central to the impeachment inquiry — for one, on the now-famous July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, Trump said that Barr would coordinate with Giuliani to push for an investigation into Biden — members of Congress have called on Barr to recuse himself from impeachment-related issues. We filed FOIA requests with the Justice Department for recusal recommendations provided to Barr, and for his communications with the Departmental Ethics Office about Ukraine, Giuliani, or other related matters, to learn whether Barr sought (and considered) official ethics advice.

Whitaker’s Finances: This week, a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s draft financial disclosure forms, which the department had been trying to keep secret in a FOIA lawsuit brought by Buzzfeed. Whitaker’s final financial disclosures weren’t made public until a week after he was appointed acting attorney general — a year after he joined the administration as former AG Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff. Our investigation of Whitaker’s political and financial conflicts of interest revealed serious concerns about the accuracy of his disclosures, and we’ll be looking closely at the draft versions the judge ordered to be released.

Border Wall Contract: North Dakota construction company Fisher Sand and Gravel won a $400 million contract to build a portion of the president’s border wall. This is the same company, helmed by Republican donor and vocal Trump supporter Tommy Fisher, that the president has repeatedly attempted to steer contracts to. We’ve been investigating Department of Homeland Security and Army Corps of Engineers communications with Fisher’s company, as well as agencies’ communications with or about We Build the Wall, the crowd-funded and permit-ignoring organization that was ordered this week by a Texas judge to temporarily stop building a wall.

Georgia’s Voting System: In November’s election in Georgia, a test of the state’s new voting system in six counties had some serious problems. Some devices suddenly restarted during voting, others weren’t plugged in correctly. We’ve been investigating Georgia’s voting system since the new contract was announced this past summer, and this week filed a records request with Catoosa County, one of the six pilot counties, for communications or reports about KnowInk equipment.

Trump’s Amazon Hostility: According to reports, Trump has taken an unusual interest in the U.S. Postal Service’s contract with Amazon, having “personally pushed” Postmaster General Megan Brennan to increase the rates that USPS charges Amazon and other shipping firms. Reportedly frustrated by Brennan’s insistence on following legal and regulatory guidelines for contract changes, Trump has told aides that he would like to fire Brennan. We’re asking USPS for Brennan’s related communications to find out more about the sort of pressure the president has put on her.

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June 16, 2017

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May 24, 2017

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May 16, 2017

American Oversight Demands Release of Comey-Trump Memos

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May 12, 2017

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May 10, 2017

Statement on the Firing of FBI Director Comey

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May 10, 2017

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April 19, 2017

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March 28, 2017

Statement on Trump Administration Proposal to Build Border Wall South of Rio Grande

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March 24, 2017

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March 22, 2017

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March 17, 2017

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