Suit Follows Department of Justice Refusal to Reveal Whether Transition Sought Information Regarding Investigations of Trump Campaign, Close Associates
September 14, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Democracy Forward filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to expose attempts by the Trump-Pence Transition team to improperly influence federal investigations into both the Trump campaign and individuals with close ties to then-President-elect Donald Trump.
The suit was filed after DOJ refused to reveal whether Trump-Pence transition officials sought information from federal prosecutors regarding politically sensitive investigations being conducted during the transition. Transition officials would have known, at the time, about a number of federal law enforcement probes that potentially implicated the President-elect or his associates, including investigations into:
- Michael T. Flynn for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for a foreign government.
Paul Manafort for his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych.
- Prevezon Holdings, whose owner was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya when she met with high ranking Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower.
Deutsche Bank, President Trump’s primary private lender, for its potential involvement in a Russian money laundering scheme.
- Trump campaign associates for potentially colluding with the Russian government to interfere in the U.S. election.
Once in office, President Trump repeatedly and inappropriately inserted himself into several of these investigations—for example, demanding that former FBI Director James Comey drop the Flynn probe and then firing Mr. Comey amidst the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation. He also fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who was overseeing both the Prevezon Holding and Deutsche Bank prosecution.
“Given what President Trump has done to interfere in federal investigations from the Oval Office, it’s troubling that DOJ has refused to disclose whether such efforts began during Mr. Trump’s transition,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “The public needs to know if President Trump came into office trying to rig our system of justice to protect himself and his associates.”
In March, Democracy Forward requested communications from Trump-Pence transition officials to DOJ’s Executive Office for United States Attorneys. The request followed the Trump Administration’s refusal to comply with a request by nine Senators on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to obtain records relating to improper contacts between the Trump Administration and DOJ.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.