Judge orders State Department to release documents on Trump dealings with Ukraine

The State Department must begin turning over documents related to the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine within 30 days, a judge ruled Wednesday.

American Oversight, an ethics watchdog organization, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department in early October in an attempt to gain access to documents related to communications between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE's personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiBolton book alleges Trump tied Ukraine aid freeze to Biden investigations: NYT Trump questions why NPR exists after Pompeo clashes with reporter Cotton: Democrats are 'upset that their witnesses haven't said what they want them to say' MORE and top State Department officials regarding Ukraine.

The group also requested records related to the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled Wednesday that the records sought were of public importance and that the State Department needed to begin disclosing documents within 30 days, NBC New York reported. Cooper reportedly advised American Oversight to meet with the government to narrow the request. 

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“Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine," Austin Evers, executive director at American Oversight, said in a statement to The Hill.

"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 court recognized the importance of these documents and the need for the State Department to rapidly release them, and American Oversight will continue fighting to make sure the truth comes out.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Cooper's ruling comes weeks into House Democrats' formal impeachment inquiry, which is centered around a whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE and his son over unfounded allegations of corruption. 

A group of House committees has issued deposition and documents requests to numerous administration officials as part of the inquiry. The House Foreign Affairs Committee subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHere's how the US can pressure Lebanon's new government tackle corruption Trump questions why NPR exists after Pompeo clashes with reporter Senate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' MORE in late September for documents related to the administration's dealings with Ukraine, though he has refused to comply with the demand. 

Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, sent a letter to the State Department on Wednesday renewing their demand for records.

The committee chairs said in the letter that they had identified specific documents in the control of the State Department that are "directly and highly relevant to the [impeachment] inquiry.” 

“The Committees consider the refusal to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena as obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress and of the impeachment inquiry,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Despite the White House's efforts to prevent cooperation with the impeachment inquiry, several former and current administration officials have privately testified before Congress. On Tuesday, William Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that he was told nearly $400 million in Ukrainian military aid was conditioned on the nation publicly declaring investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. 

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told Taylor that Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky " 'in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations," Taylor said in his opening statement.

Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of a quid pro quo.