The order directs the department to hand over within 30 days records related to communications involving President Donald Trump, his attorney Rudolph Giuliani, at center, and their dealings with Ukraine. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. State Department to release documents related to President Donald Trump's communications with Ukraine to a federal watchdog.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper directed the State Department to begin delivering the records to American Oversight within 30 days as part of the group's investigation.
"The documents and records are of critical importance," Cooper said.
The order for the documents coincides with a House impeachment inquiry that's trying to determine whether Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as a tactic to press Kiev to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, a former board member of a Ukrainian gas company.
American Oversight, founded by former Obama administration officials, filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May seeking the release of the documents related to the Trump administration's interactions with Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about Ukraine and communications since March 2018 related to the recall of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
The watchdog filed a lawsuit this month to compel the State Department to begin processing and releasing the records.
"Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine," said Austin Evers, American Oversight executive director. "This is an important victory for the American people's right to know the facts about Ukraine, and it is a major setback for the White House's stonewalling.
"The court recognized the importance of these documents and the need for the State Department to rapidly release them, and American Oversight will continue fighting to make sure the truth comes out."
Tuesday, the group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy for records related to a U.S. delegation visit to Ukraine in May, led by outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry. American Oversight said it filed the suit because Perry has refused to cooperate or hand over any records related to the visit.
Wednesday, two Giuliani associates -- Lev Parnas, a Ukraine native, and Igor Fruman -- pleaded not guilty to charges they illegally routed foreign campaign donations to U.S. candidates. The pair were arrested two weeks ago before they boarded a plane to leave the United States. Another watchdog says the Super PAC that received the donations, America First Action, also broke federal law.