Nov 9, 2019

Exclusive: Three Democratic senators use another FOIA request to get Trump-Ukraine info

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks to voters in Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse requested documents and communications from the Justice Department on Nov. 8 related to President Trump's reported call for Attorney General Bill Barr to hold a press conference exonerating the president of any wrongdoing on the July 25 Ukraine call, according to a letter first given to Axios.

“These reports raise serious concerns about the president’s perception of the Justice Department as a partisan political instrument and his willingness to use the power of federal law enforcement in pursuit of his own objectives."
— Sens. Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse in a Nov. 8 letter

Why it matters: The White House continues to defy congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry. This document request is one attempt to work around that resistance and collect more information.

  • The senators are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This is the second time these senators made a FOIA request for Trump-Ukraine information in less than three weeks.

Yes, but: FOIA requests can take months, or even years to process, meaning the lawmakers might not get the documents any time soon.

Between the lines: They're also using Trump's tweets against him after the president recently denied a Washington Post story about the Barr press conference request, calling it "MADE UP" and "pure fiction."

“If President Trump’s passionate assertion that such reports are ‘pure fiction’ and ‘Fake News’ is indeed correct, then the Department of Justice should have no problem in expeditiously processing our request. Accordingly, we seek expedited treatment of our request for the following records.”
— the Democratic senators wrote

The big picture: Harris has gained national attention for her questioning of Trump nominees like Barr and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She's now proactively trying to get involved in the impeachment inquiry before the trial even makes its way to the Senate — which would pull her away from the 2020 campaign trail.

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