American Oversight today sued the State Department for documents related to the efforts by the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — who was subpoenaed Monday by three congressional committees — to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.
Our investigation into Giuliani’s attempts to have a foreign country investigate one of President Donald Trump’s potential 2020 opponents began after Giuliani announced his plans to visit Ukraine back in May, when we filed Freedom of Information Act requests for State Department communications about the efforts. We also requested records about the May recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The government’s failure to provide the documents even after our September expedition request prompted today’s lawsuit, which also seeks communications with or about Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, two other personal lawyers who helped Giuliani with the Ukraine plan.
Despite near-daily revelations of the extent of Trump’s personal involvement, it is not yet known how many other Trump administration officials took part in the effort and whether it went beyond Trump’s decision to withhold congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine. The White House–released readout of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky shows the president not only mentioning Giuliani, but also Attorney General William Barr, who was reported on Monday to have asked British and Italian officials to help U.S. Attorney John Durham in his investigation of intelligence agencies’ 2016 election interference investigation.
American Oversight is also investigating the Justice Department’s — specifically Durham’s — participation in the Ukraine pressure campaign. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Durham had traveled with Barr to Italy last week, and the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry noted that Giuliani had told Fox News on August 8 that Durham was “spending a lot of time in Europe” and was “investigating Ukraine.” In August, we filed two lawsuits for all directives or guidance given to Durham, as well as any communications Durham had with Barr or the White House.
“This wasn’t just one phone call or Rudy Giuliani acting on his own,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director. “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.
“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.”
American Oversight’s lawsuit hopes to shed light on key unanswered questions:
According to the whistleblower complaint, State Department official T. Ulrich Brechbuhl listened to that phone call. Our lawsuit seeks copies of records reflecting any of Brechbuhl’s communications about Giuliani’s plans — which would include any communications regarding Trump’s call.
Giuliani has boasted on television that he was “operating at the request of the State Department.” It is almost inconceivable that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his staff would have been unaware of or uninvolved in an effort that was such a high priority for the president. We’re looking for related communications from Pompeo as well as Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Brechbuhl, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, and others.
In the call memorandum released by the White House last week, Trump referred to former Ambassador Yovanovitch as “bad news” immediately before asking Zelensky to “look into” Biden and Biden’s son. The lawsuit also involves Pompeo’s and other senior officials’ correspondence about Yovanovitch, including with the White House, as well as communications sent to or from Yovanovitch during her final two weeks as ambassador.
On September 29, Fox News’ Chris Wallace reported that U.S. officials had confirmed that Trump had used the controversial lawyers as conduits between the president and Ukraine. Toensing and diGenova have histories of pushing conspiracies about efforts within the government to frame, discredit and remove Trump.
In addition to the litigation mentioned above, we have submitted 27 further FOIA requests to the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Energy, and Defense, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Agency for International Development. We’re seeking the calendars and communications of former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker with Giuliani or about the effort; Justice Department communications about the whistleblower memo; and Defense and OMB records regarding the withholding of military aid. If the Trump administration fails to respond to those requests and release records as required by law, we’re prepared to pursue further litigation to ensure the public learns the truth.
Part of Investigation: