A federal judge has issued a dramatic preliminary injunction ordering the release of documents about US aid to Ukraine the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget had already agreed to make public.
Neither the Pentagon nor the OMB really contested the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), and the only thing in dispute was how many of the 211 related pages would be provided on December 12, Monday’s ruling noted. The remaining documents would be released by December 20.
NEW: A federal judge has granted @publicintegrity a preliminary injunction in their FOIA lawsuit seeking OMB/Defense Dept docs on the withholding of Ukraine aid. She orders the agencies to release all non-exempt docs by 12/20, with first batch due 12/12. https://t.co/86WCuuJ9aA pic.twitter.com/wnf430dZXG
— Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen) November 25, 2019
US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, however, took the dramatic step of ordering the production of at least 106 pages – more, if that means the release would be incomplete – by the 12th. She argued that that the documents are needed “to inform the public on a matter of extreme national concern” – namely, the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
“Only an informed electorate can develop its opinions and persuasively petition its elected officials to act in ways which further the aims of those opinions,” she wrote in the ruling.
The CPI sued to obtain any and all records about the communications between the OMB and the Pentagon’s office of the acting comptroller, regarding the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, almost $400 million in military aid Congress has earmarked for Kiev. Other groups, such as CREW and American Oversight – both tied to the Democrats – also filed lawsuits seeking the documents.
Even though both the DOD and the OMB said they would produce the records willingly, major US media outlets reported Kollar-Kotelly’s order with the same breathless anticipation as the rest of their impeachment coverage.
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Democrats have claimed the aid was held up as leverage to coerce Ukraine into opening a probe into an admittedly notoriously corrupt company that employed Hunter Biden, son of former vice-president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. They say the probe would amount to meddling in the 2020 election.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and released the transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to prove it. The Ukrainians likewise denied being pressured. They were not aware that the aid was being withheld at the time of the call, and never opened the investigation.
Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, previously sought to block President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military. Her 2017 injunction was overruled by the US Supreme Court in January 2019.
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