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Federal judge rejects Trump administration executive privilege claim over withheld emails
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Federal judge rejects Trump administration executive privilege claim over withheld emails

During a teleconference on Monday, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that the Trump administration failed to show that emails about the hold placed on US aid to Ukraine in 2019 were eligible for protection under executive privilege.

The emails were between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey, concerning the hold placed by the Trump administration on US aid to Ukraine in 2019. The decision to withhold aid is what triggered Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives last year.

Because these emails are considered key evidence, the New York Times tried to obtain them under the Freedom of Information Act during the impeachment trial. The company filed suit in November after it did not receive the emails. Jackson ordered in May that the emails be turned over to her.

To prevent the release of these emails, the Trump administration attempted to invoke legal privileges that protected presidential advice development or decisions made by government officials. Walsh said Monday that the emails reflected an exchange on the “scope, duration and purpose” of the withholding of aid. However, she said that the declarations filed to support the executive privilege claims were too vague. The declarations were “overly general” and based on inadmissible hearsay about Blair’s duties as an assistant.

On this basis, Walsh rejected the Trump administration’s invocation of executive privilege. However, she gave Justice Department attorneys until Thursday to suggest how much time they will need to prepare a better privilege claim justification.