Harris, Blumenthal, Whitehouse Demand Attorney General Barr Turn Over Records Related to Political Interference from White House and Giuliani
Freedom of Information Act Request Encompasses Correspondence With, To, or From AG Barr and DAG Rosen
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Wednesday sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Attorney General William Barr seeking documents that will shed light on any attempts by the White House to interfere with the Justice Department’s work in the interest of the president’s political goals.
The FOIA request demands the Department of Justice turn over all memoranda, correspondence—including email or other correspondence—or memorialized conversations, with, to, or from Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeremy Rosen, or the immediate office of the attorney general, from February 14, 2019 to present, which contain phrases such as: “Bill Taylor,” “Burisma,” “Crowdstrike,” “Giuliani,” “Fiona Hill,” “Halkbank,” “quid pro quo,” “Rudy,” “Sondland,” “Volker,” “Zarrab,” and “Zelensky.”
“The rule of law in our country depends on having a Department of Justice that is fair, impartial, and independent,” said Harris. “But under this administration, the American people can no longer trust that their attorney general is committed to pursuing justice for every single American. In May, I asked Attorney General Barr directly whether the president or anyone in the White House had ever requested or suggested that he investigate anyone. Barr refused to answer then, but it’s clear now that we must take extraordinary action to seek the truth about the president’s efforts to use the Justice Department for his own political gain. That starts with demanding answers about exactly what has transpired since Attorney General Barr took office.”
“Attorney General Barr acts more like Donald Trump’s personal political fixer than the independent head of federal law enforcement. Now Barr has been directly named as a possible accomplice in President Trump’s attempts to seek corrupt assistance from a foreign leader for personal political gain. This wouldn’t be the first time Barr has been a key player in President Trump’s efforts to politicize law enforcement. The American people, through their representatives in Congress, deserve to know exactly how the Attorney General might be twisting the law for the President’s political benefit,” said Blumenthal.
“Every time we check the news, we see the president and his administration using the levers of power to advance their own corrupt interests. The American people ought to know just how deep that corruption runs, and what that corruption means for our Justice Department and the independence of federal law enforcement,” said Whitehouse. “Congress shouldn’t have to submit open records requests to conduct oversight, but that’s the kind of obstruction we’ve come to expect from this administration.”
The FOIA request comes on the heels of numerous instances that have called into question the independence of the Department of Justice, including a whistleblower complaint that directly named Barr as someone who “appears to be involved” in President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the family of one of Trump’s political rivals. On May 1, Attorney General Barr refused to answer a direct question from Senator Harris about whether the president or anyone in the White House had ever asked him to open up an investigation into anyone.
The full FOIA request is available here or below:
October 23, 2019
The Honorable William P. Barr
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Barr:
This letter is a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552.
On August 12, 2019, a whistleblower alleged that he had received information from multiple U.S. government officials that President Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” Specifically, on a July 25, 2019 phone call, President Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the family of one of Trump’s political opponents, just one week after ordering the freeze of military aid to Ukraine. You were named in the whistleblower’s complaint as someone who “appears to be involved.”
Since the whistleblower’s complaint became public, President Trump has publicly asked China to investigate the family of one of his domestic political opponents. Two associates of Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, have been indicted and arrested on charges that they funneled foreign money to U.S. politicians while trying to influence U.S.-Ukraine relations. It has also been reported that, during an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of his jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader named Reza Zarrab, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey.
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. 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.
As current members of the U.S. Senate, we have constitutional authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch. This request does not mean or suggest that we are not congressionally entitled to documents from the administration. However, in light of the administration’s refusal to cooperate with multiple congressional requests, we submit this FOIA request to secure access to documents and information for the benefit of the American people. Accordingly, we seek the following records, to the full extent permitted by law:
All memoranda, correspondence, including email or other correspondence, or memorialized conversations, with, to, or from Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeremy Rosen, or the immediate office of the attorney general, from February 14, 2019 to present, which contain any of the following words or phrases:
- “Benczkowski” & “DiGenova”
- “Benczkowski” & “Giuliani”
- “Benczkowski” & “Iran”
- “Benczkowski” & “Toensing”
- “Benczkowski” & “Turkey
- “Benczkowski” & “Ukraine”
- “Benczkowski” & “Zarab”
- “Benczkowski” & “Zarrab”
- “Bill Taylor”
- “Brady Toensing”
- “Fiona Hill”
- “Fraud Guarantee”
- “Laura Cooper”
- “Mnuchin” & “Giuliani”
- “Mnuchin” & “Halkbank”
- “Mnuchin” & “Turkey”
- “Mnuchin” & “Turkey”
- “Mnuchin” & “Ukraine”
- “Perry” & “Ukraine”
- “Pompeo” & “Turkey”
- “Pompeo” & “Ukraine”
- “quid pro quo”
- “Tillerson” & “Giuliani”
- “Tillerson” & “Iran”
- “Tillerson” & “Turkey”
- “Tillerson” & “Ukraine”
- “Tim Morrison”
- “TriGlobal Strategic Ventures”
- “Victoria Toensing”
- “William Taylor”
All other documents with, to, or from Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeremy Rosen, or the immediate office of the attorney general, from February 14, 2019 to present, relating to the following topics:
- All documents related to interactions between the Justice Department and the government of China, with regards to any potential political opponents of President Trump in 2020.
- All documents related to interactions between the Justice Department and the government of Ukraine, with regards to any potential political opponents of President Trump in 2020.
- All documents created or modified since February 14, 2019 pertaining to any requests from the White House, whether directly or indirectly, to investigate companies associated with Hunter Biden.
Thank you for your attention to this request. As provided in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E)(ii)(I), I look forward to your response within ten business days.
Request for Fee Waiver
Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 36 C.F.R. § 1250.56(a)(1)-(2), we request a waiver of all fees associated with processing this records request. Disclosure of the records we request is in the public interest because, for the reasons stated above, they are likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations and activities.
Disclosure of these records is in no way associated with any commercial interest of ours. Rather, we are requesting these documents to fulfill our constitutional duties as Senators, which require us to understand DOJ operations and activities. We are therefore entitled to a fee waiver.
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