While much attention remains focused elsewhere thanks to the raging Coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is still trying to get a pass for their corruption. They have previously refused to comply with a court order demanding the release of communication records related to the president’s attempt to bribe Ukraine into investigating the Bidens via using withheld military aid as leverage. Now, Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who also handled Trump associate Roger Stone’s criminal case, among other high-profile proceedings — has demanded that the Trump team release the material in question, including some 20 emails, to the court. Jackson wishes to review the material before deciding whether to support or overturn the White House insistence that the emails are protected by executive privilege.
As Law & Crime reports, she ruled:
‘[I]n order to assist the Court in making responsible de novo determinations in this case, including any determination for purposes of the presidential communications privilege… defendant [the White House Office of Management and Budget] is directed to deliver copies of the documents that have been withheld… to chambers for in camera inspection on or before May 20, 2020.’
The plaintiff in this particular case is The New York Times, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the public release of the material. The president’s team has claimed that the material is too closely tied to presidential decision-making to allow for acceptable public release, but the Times disagrees — sharply.
The paper insisted that the government has so far failed to provide a shred of evidence supporting their claims about the executive privilege protections for the emails. Those which they have withheld are communications between budget officials rather than the president or even one of his close advisers directly.
The Times argued:
‘[The] Government relies principally on the presidential communications privilege to keep documents secret but has failed to justify invocation of the privilege, submitting a thread-bare declaration from an agency FOIA lawyer who traffics largely—and improperly—in hearsay evidence and then testifies about the operations of the White House’s national security apparatus, a topic about which she has no apparent foundational knowledge and, in fact, claims none.’
Tough. The communications in question are between Michael Duffey, who works as the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Principal Associate Director for National Security Programs, and Robert Blair, who worked as an adviser to then-White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who served in an “acting” capacity for some time before his recent replacement by Congressman Mark Meadows.
President Trump was impeached over his attempt to bribe Ukraine into investigating the Bidens, which fizzled out before any actual large-scale investigation was launched. The president’s team and Republican allies in Congress have consistently insisted upon the president’s innocence. The emails between Duffey and Blair could provide more insight into the actual decision-making processes surrounding the portion of that bribery scheme that featured the withholding of previously Congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine.
Trump and his associates have desperately tried to distract from the president’s stumblings ahead of the November election, but polls indicate that it’s not working.