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Trump promised full transparency on scandal documents, State Department didn't comply

State failed to meet deadlines for documents subpoenaed by Senate or covered by FOIA lawsuits, and fully redacted one of the most important memos it released.

Updated: November 3, 2020 - 7:38pm

President Trump has been adamantly clear: He wants all documents from the Russia, Clinton email and Ukraine scandals made public without redactions or exceptions. He's made the pledge on Twitter, on television and to the key chairmen running investigations in the Senate.

His State Department, however, has been marching to a different beat.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), did not get from the department large swaths of documents that they requested, and in some cases subpoenaed, for the committees they chaired. Some of their requests have now been pending by two years or more.

And after months of promising a final production of documents in late October in response to one of Just the News' lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act, the State Department suddenly reversed course and said it could not release the materials until after the November election. The suit has been pending for a year.

In another FOIA matter, the State Department produced to Just the News a few dozen pages of responsive documents from the Ukraine-Biden controversy last week but redacted nearly the entirety of a key document from October 2016. The memo supposedly details what then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch discussed when she met the Ukraine prosecutor overseeing a long-running corruption case against the Burisma Holdings gas firm where Hunter Biden worked, and several other cases targeting Ukrainians.

The prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, claimed that in the meeting Yovanovitch identified several cases that the U.S. embassy did not want to see prosecuted. Yovanovitch and State have denied there was a do-not-prosecute list. The memo — if it had been released without its complete redactions — could have helped Americans understand better whose account was accurate and what transpired at the meeting.  

You can see the redacted memo here. 

In the end, Americans didn't get the benefit of knowing what was in those documents or many others like them before they voted in the 2020 election, according to the lawyer at the Southeastern Legal Foundation who represented Just the News in its FOIA lawsuits against State.

"These delays are unacceptable," SLF general counsel Kimberly Hermann wrote in a letter Monday to the government's lawyers. "The State Department's decision to withhold communications between Hunter Biden, his companies, and his associates and the Ukrainian government can only be seen as an attempt to influence and interfere with tomorrow's presidential election.

"The American public has a right and a need to know about those communications — especially given what has recently been confirmed regarding [Hunter's] business dealings with China," she added.

You can read her letter here.

Johnson told Just the News that the foot-dragging at State and the FBI that his investigators on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee have experienced improperly thwarted Congress' obligation to perform oversight on the executive branch.

"There is a reason I started calling these bureaucrats the 'deep state,'" he said in an interview Tuesday. "The obstruction we have faced, the slow-walking, the suppression of information is astonishing and unacceptable. It is part of the reason I'm hoping Donald Trump wins the election so we can spend the next four years exposing and rooting out the corruption inside these agencies."

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