WASHINGTON (CN) — While the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump included no documents produced by the White House, a first in modern U.S. history, records may soon surface shedding more light on the withholding of aid to Ukraine.
Trump ordered his administration to across the board defy all congressional subpoenas during the impeachment investigation, leading to the second impeachment charge: obstruction of Congress.
But while the president continues to vaunt that the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted him earlier this month, a government watchdog is suing for access to all records relating to the U.S. provision or rescission of military aid to Ukraine.
In Washington on Friday, a lawyer for the group, American Oversight, told U.S. District Judge James Boasberg that speedy production of the records is of urgent national importance.
“This information is important for the public to have in the face of a fast approaching election,” said attorney Daniel McGrath.
The government, while committing to produce the requested records, said a search of the files in the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department could come up empty.
“At this point the agency believes there will be very few if any responsive records,” said Justice Department attorney Grace Zhou.
Just before midnight on the eve of opening arguments at the Senate impeachment trial, the White House released nearly 200 pages of records to American Oversight related to the Trump administration holding up nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. But the documents were heavily redacted.
Boasberg noted that fellow judges in the D.C. court had accelerated the pace of production in cases seeking Ukraine records during the House impeachment investigation.
But the Barack Obama appointee said he understood that the government was weighed down by Freedom of Information Act requests.
“So I am sympathetic to the government’s case,” Boasberg said.
While American Oversight’s attorney had pushed for an April production deadline, the judge ordered the government to hand over all relevant documents by May 10.
That same week, on May 15, the parties are scheduled to meet to review any challenges by the watchdog group to claims by the government that certain documents are exempt from being turned over.