Democrats make legal request for Justice Dept. records on Trump, Ukraine

UPI Politics 3 weeks ago

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Senate Democrats on Wednesday made a legal request for information to learn if there were any White House attempts to use the Justice Department to investigate political rivals of President Donald Trump.

Sen. Kamala Harris, herself a Democratic candidate for president next year, and Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Islandsubmitted the request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"We need the truth," Harris tweeted Wednesday.

The effort coincides with a House impeachment investigation that's centered on a whistle-blower complaint about talks between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky three months ago -- during which the U.S. leader pressed for investigations of 2020 candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, a former Ukrainian gas company board member.

The senators, all members of the upper chamber's judiciary committee, filed the request to compel U.S. Attorney General William Barr to turn over public records related to Ukraine or other potential White House attempts to investigate political rivals. They're searching for any document that contains one of more than 70 different phrases, including "quid pro quo;" "Rudy," for Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani; and "Burisma," the name of the Ukraine firm Hunter Biden worked for.

"These factual revelations raise serious concerns about the Justice Department's involvement in politically-motivated investigations, at the behest of the White House and Rudy Giuliani," the senators wrote in a joint letter to Barr. "Therefore, we submit a request for records seeking information about the White House's attempts to interfere with federal law enforcement to pursue politically beneficial outcomes."

The senators said they decided on a FOIA request because the Trump administration has so far refused to cooperate with the House investigation, which has issued multiple subpoenas to depose current and former Trump administration officials with knowledge of Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

The House investigation is trying to determine if there was any connection between Trump's efforts against the Bidens and hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid he temporarily withheld this summer from the Ukrainian government. An intelligence official who was the source of the whistle-blower report had expressed concerns Trump may have withheld the Congress-approved aid as leverage for an investigation.

William Taylor, Trump's ambassador to Ukraine who testified Tuesday, had also expressed concern the two actions were linked in text messages with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland -- who replied that the withheld aid had nothing to do with the Bidens. Sondland told impeachment investigators last week threatening to withhold aid to a foreign government for a personal political favor "would be wrong."

"So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the president, without due process or fairness or any legal rights," Trump complained in a tweet Tuesday. "All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here -- a lynching."

House investigators were scheduled to depose more witnesses on Wednesday and Thursday, but the private hearings were postponed due to the death last week of oversight committee Chair Elijah Cummings -- the leader of one of three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. They will still question Laura Cooper, a Ukraine and Russia specialist in the Defense Department, on Wednesday.

Cummings will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and his funeral will be held Friday.


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