Politics: U.S. judge weighs ordering State Dept. to release Volker, Sondland records about Ukraine - - PressFrom - US
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Politics U.S. judge weighs ordering State Dept. to release Volker, Sondland records about Ukraine

23:10  03 december  2019
23:10  03 december  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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A federal judge is weighing whether to order the State Department to release internal communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and two of three men designated by President Trump to steer Ukraine policy — potentially sensitive records at the heart of an ongoing

Gordon David Sondland (born July 16, 1957) is an American diplomat and businessperson. He is the United States Ambassador to the European Union.

A federal judge is weighing whether to order the State Department to release internal communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and two of three men designated by President Trump to steer Ukraine policy — potentially sensitive records at the heart of an ongoing House impeachment inquiry.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper of Washington on Tuesday heard arguments in a public-records lawsuit seeking communications by Kurt Volker, former State Department envoy to Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, with other State Department officials including Pompeo.

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Last month, Cooper ordered the State Department to confer with American Oversight and negotiate the release of other categories of Ukraine -related 30 court filing, the State Department objected to producing readouts and summaries of the July 25 phone call that are currently in the possession of

23 (UPI) — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U . S . State Department to release documents related to U . S . District Judge Christopher Cooper directed the State Department to begin delivering the records to American Trump Cites Gordon Sondland ' s Testimony as Impeachment Exoneration.

Volker, Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry called themselves the “three amigos,” and other U.S. diplomats said the trio was tasked by the administration with pushing Trump’s policies on Ukraine, bypassing and at times running counter to traditional diplomatic channels.

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A watchdog group, American Oversight, in May asked the State Department for records related to alleged efforts by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, events that are the subject of a House impeachment report released Tuesday.

The Trump administration has declined to release records to the House, as part of the White House’s blanket refusal to cooperate in the impeachment probe. However, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) empowers judges to order the release of documents requested by members of the public, and federal lawsuits to enforce such requests can move much more quickly through the courts than battles over congressional subpoenas.

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The order by U . S . District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington gave the State Department until Nov. 22 to hand the documents over to American 30 court filing, the State Department objected to producing readouts and summaries of the July 25 phone call that are currently in the possession of

“A federal judge Wednesday gave the State Department 30 days to release Ukraine -related records , including communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump’ s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani Previously, he was a policy adviser to a U . S . Senator and Governor.

“The public should expect more disclosures, over the administration’s strong objection, for the foreseeable future,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said earlier in the litigation.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Evers added, “If I were a member of Congress and thinking about voting on articles of impeachment and whether to convict the president, I would keep in mind that the evidence is going to continue trickling out after I cast that vote, and if the trend continues, it’s not going to get better.”

The group sought records since March 2018 related to the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and readouts from a July 25 call in which Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for “a favor” while his administration was withholding military aid.

Cooper in late October ordered the State Department to begin releasing Ukraine-related documents. American Oversight filed its lawsuit on Oct. 1. Tuesday’s hearing focused on the group’s request that the court order the department to prioritize the release of records involving Sondland and Volker, any notes of the July 25 call, and records of Pompeo’s other communications, such as a publicly reported September call with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

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A federal judge Wednesday gave the State Department 30 days to release Ukraine -related records , including communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump' s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

A judge on Wednesday ordered the State Department to begin producing within 30 days Sondland Offers Explosive Testimony: 'Requests Were a Quid Pro Quo'. U . S . Ambassador to the European If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "wants to fight so hard" to keep records out of the hands of House

The suit has taken on added urgency as Democratic leaders have signaled they wish to conclude the House inquiry by year’s end.

American Oversight said an initial 98-page disclosure by the department on Nov. 22 documented multiple earlier communications from Giuliani through the White House to Pompeo “to facilitate a smear campaign” against Yovanovitch.

Justice Department trial attorney Joshua C. Abbuhl of the civil division’s federal programs branch argued Tuesday against a court order, saying that allowing FOIA requesters to change the department’s procedures midstream would substantially tax already stretched resources, duplicate workloads and reduce the efficiency of records searches at a time when the department faces a long backlog of requests.

“It is just very difficult to process documents that have already been” screened, Abbuhl said, adding that there is a “substantial likelihood” that Volker and Sondland’s communications could reflect internal department deliberations that would be exempt from public release.

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A federal judge said Wednesday that he will order the State Department to begin releasing Ukraine -related documents in 30 days, potentially making public sensitive records and communications at the heart of an ongoing House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The order by U . S . District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington gave the State Department until Nov. 22 to hand the documents over to American Oversight, a watchdog group that sued for access to them based on a public records law.

Cooper said he would wait until Monday, when the department has said it will explain exactly how it has searched for responsive documents and over what period, but expressed skepticism at the department’s claim that it had no readouts or summaries of the July 25 call or the secretary’s other communications.

“I’ll wait to see what the department says,” Cooper said, before adding later, “It seems unlikely there would be no summaries or readouts of that call.”

American Oversight attorney Daniel A. McGrath argued that Volker and Sondland are the “key witnesses” in the impeachment inquiry and noted that Sondland himself testified that the State Department blocked him and House lawmakers from accessing his records and communications that could have bolstered his recollection.

McGrath said even if portions are redacted, the two diplomats’ communications in August and September were “likely to be of great public importance,” explaining what the White House and Trump’s personal attorney were doing and how the State Department responded.

spencer.hsu@washpost.com

Mike Pompeo wearing a suit and tie: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks Monday  in Louisville.© Timothy D. Easley/AP Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks Monday in Louisville.

2 weeks of impeachment hearings, 30 hours, 12 witnesses: What we learned .
In the past two weeks, the Democratic-led House heard more than 30 hours of testimony from a dozen witnesses on Ukraine. Here's what we learned.The witnesses included Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; Bill Taylor, who replaced Yovanovich as top diplomat in Ukraine this spring; George Kent, a senior State Department official; Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide who worked on Ukraine; Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Kurt Volker, former special U.S.

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