N.Y. Times Presses DOJ for Trump Legal Reviews

MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Times brought a federal lawsuit to force the Justice Department to hand over records about its legal reviews of President Donald Trump’s proposed executive orders and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s appointment as a White House advisor.

According to the complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the Times and investigative reporter Charlie Savage filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice in January, asking for documents about its Office of Legal Counsel’s reviews of proposed Trump administration executive orders for form and legality, including proposed orders during the transition period.

The newspaper also sought legal reviews about “whether the appointment of Jared Kushner to a White House role would violate anti-nepotism laws and whether the president’s ongoing business operations would violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution,” the lawsuit states.

The five-page complaint says the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of Savage’s FOIA request on Feb. 27 but the department has yet to produce any responsive records.

Since FOIA requires a response within 20 days and that deadline has passed, the Times and Savage want a federal judge in Manhattan to intervene, seeking a judicial order compelling the Department of Justice to produce responsive records.

Trump appointed Kushner, the husband of his daughter Ivanka, as senior adviser in the White House on Jan. 9.

Aside from potential anti-nepotism violations, Kushner brought to the White House a tangle of potential conflicts of interest, as the real estate company he runs has cut deals with a number of foreign governments, including a budding arrangement with China reported by the Times.

On Jan. 23, just days after Trump’s inauguration, nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asking a federal judge to declare the Trump Organization in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which restricts U.S. presidents from receiving gifts from foreign governments.

The Times and Savage are represented by in-house counsel David McCraw. Savage has compiled a list of his multiple open FOIA cases on his website.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on the complaint.

Wednesday’s lawsuit is not the first one related to Trump’s executive orders. Dozens of lawsuits nationwide have challenged both his original and revised travel bans, the latest of which bars citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Derek Watson temporarily halted the implementation of Trump’s revised travel ban hours before it was scheduled to take effect. Watson said statements made by Trump during the campaign “in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the executive order…betray the executive order’s stated secular purpose.”