State Department Told to Hand Over Records on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge in Washington said Wednesday he plans to order the State Department to turn over documents related to Ukraine as part of a records fight with a government watchdog group.

Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, arrives on Capitol Hill on Oct. 11, 2019, to testify before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The records are part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by American Oversight, a nonprofit group that routinely files public records requests as it investigates the Trump administration.

American Oversight sought documents detailing contacts between President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and top State Department officials as Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to open up investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family,

The watchdog also requested records about the reasons for recalling former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

While U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper has not entered a formal order in the case, he said during a hearing Wednesday that he plans to order the State Department to start producing the documents within 30 days, according to American Oversight and multiple media reports.

American Oversight had asked Cooper, a Barack Obama appointee, to enter a preliminary injunction to block the State Department from “unlawfully impeding” its access to records it sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement Wednesday the order will help shed light on some of the issues the House is currently exploring in its ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

“Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine,” Evers said. “This is an important victory for the American people’s right to know the facts about Ukraine and it is a major setback for the White House’s stonewalling.”

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment on Cooper’s decision.

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