A federal judge just handed President Donald Trump a victory against activist litigators.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed a lawsuit accusing Trump of failing to keep records of his phone calls and meetings with foreign leaders, The Hill reported. The plaintiffs alleged that Trump ignored recordkeeping practices when meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, both men with whom liberals have said Trump is too friendly.
Record-keeping lawsuit tossed
Judge Jackson sided with Trump in a ruling Monday, declaring that she did not have power to police Trump’s routine record-keeping. Judge Jackson indicated, however, that she did not necessarily find the White House’s conduct appropriate:
The Court is bound by Circuit precedent to find that it lacks authority to oversee the President’s day-to-day compliance with the statutory provisions involved in this case. This opinion will not address, and should not be interpreted to endorse, the challenged practices; nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office [of the President] is in compliance with its obligations.
The lawsuit was brought by the left-wing Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the anti-government secrecy group National Security Archive, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), a professional association of historians. They claimed that Trump barred State Department officials from meetings with Putin and Kim, as well as meetings between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Saudi officials.
“We’re obviously disappointed to see today’s ruling,” CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said in a statement to The Hill. “Our legal team is currently reviewing it to determine any potential future action.”
Activists seek to police diplomacy
Democrats, media figures and liberal activist groups have routinely said that Trump is a corrupt president whose approach to foreign policy is dangerous, heedless of norms, and self-serving. Although the lawsuit was filed in May, before Democrats impeached Trump, it echoes claims that Trump abused his power by pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
At the center of the impeachment effort was a phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine. Trump repeatedly urged Americans to “read the transcript,” but Democrats in Congress claimed that Trump, in that conversation and other meetings with Ukraine, tried to arrange a “quid pro quo.”
In her opinion, Jackson said that Congress would have to alter archiving laws that give the president “such unfettered control” over executive record keeping. Although the lawsuit predated the Ukraine affair, the groups asked for an emergency ruling amid the impeachment saga, the Washington Post reported.
CREW cited Trump’s efforts to “conceal the president’s abuse of his power” in making the appeal. In a statement reacting to Monday’s ruling , SHAFR President Kristin Hoganson said that Congress specifically needs to rewrite its laws because of Trump, who “purposefully seeks to evade the law.”
The groups behind the lawsuit plan to appeal the ruling.
Attacks keep coming
Through the impeachment fight, Trump’s allies expressed concern that the Democrats had compromised Trump’s ability to conduct foreign affairs, especially after his July phone call with Ukraine’s president was leaked to the public. Democrats and prosecutors have also sought Trump’s tax returns and other personal financial documents, and the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in cases related to those requests in March.
Jackson is the same judge presiding over Roger Stone’s criminal case, which attracted headlines Tuesday after Trump intervened on Stone’s behalf and drew the ire of the left. The president and his allies were incensed when prosecutors recommended a nine-year prison sentence for Stone on relatively minor process crimes stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation.