CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
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Washington – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Department of State broke the law by conducting an off-the-record shadow diplomacy in Ukraine, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive (NSA) and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR).
Secretary Pompeo and the State Department are likely violating the Federal Records Act, which requires “accurate and complete documentation” of agency policies, decisions, and essential transactions. At the direction of the president and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and with the knowledge of Pompeo, State Department officials used a secret and irregular channel that bypassed department recordkeeping systems to enlist the aid of Ukraine, at the behest of the president, to dig up dirt on the president’s political enemies. Further, in at least one instance a high-level State Department official directed that no one transcribe a call between State Department officials and Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy. Officials regularly used encrypted messenger apps to conduct official business without ensuring that those messages are preserved.
“Secretary Pompeo and members of the State Department are the latest in a disturbing pattern of officials, including the president himself, who have apparently broken the law in an effort to keep national security officials and the American people in the dark about the president’s misconduct,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “It is beyond troubling when an agency as important as the State Department decides to destroy or hide records of conversations that threaten our democracy, rather than preserve them for the public.”
“Sworn testimony by Ambassador Bill Taylor, a Vietnam vet, West Point grad, career diplomat, and top U.S. representative in Ukraine, let Congress know his State Department colleagues ordered no records kept of a key U.S.-Ukraine conversation, right in the middle of a secret hold on U.S. aid to Ukraine,” remarked NSA Director Tom Blanton. “This was wrong. The records laws place an obligation on the State Department to document its policies and decisions, and the same goes for the White House.”
“Records are of fundamental importance for informed policymaking, accountability, and educated citizenship. That is why we have the Presidential and Federal Records Acts and why it is imperative that these laws be observed,” said Kristin Hoganson, SHAFR President. “Foreign relations historians are deeply concerned about government records because they realize how high the stakes are for free and open government within the United States and around the world.”
In a related pending lawsuit, CREW, NSA and SHAFR allege that President Trump and and other White House officials, including Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, violated the Presidential Records Act by failing to create records of their meetings with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and Saudi officials. The latest revelations from the House impeachment proceeding suggest they were motivated by a desire to cover up evidence of presidential misconduct. The three groups were granted a temporary restraining order against President Trump and the Executive Office of the President following the allegations in the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which compelled the government to immediately begin preserving records.