State Dept Is Withholding Paris Accord Documents, So A Think Tank Is Suing It

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is suing the Department of State for “illegally” withholding documents related to the Obama administration’s decision to keep the Paris climate accord away from Congress.

CEI filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October asking for emails between two Obama administration State Department officials and a lawyer for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which is chaired by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.

The State Department has not provided any records, so CEI filed suit on Monday.

“As the Senate and now two administrations continue to remain silent about how our treaty process was ignored in order to claim the U.S. was a party to the Paris climate treaty, CEI continues to seek relevant information to learn how this came about,” CEI Fellow Chris Horner said in a statement.

CEI’s second lawsuit for Paris accord documents comes as United Nations delegates meet in Bonn, Germany to discuss how to further implement the international agreement.

President Donald Trump announced in June he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord, saying the Obama-era agreement would hurt the economy. Horner, however, says the accord subverts the U.S. Constitution.

“The Trump administration should carefully examine what led to our signing of the agreement without seeking Senate advice and consent, and what steps should be taken next given what their own records show,” Horner said.

The Obama administration joined the Paris accord in 2016, but the White House didn’t submit the agreement to the Senate for approval. Instead, officials labeled the Paris accord as an “executive agreement,” not a treaty.

The U.S. Constitution requires Senate approval for the U.S. to enter into treaties, but no such approval is required for executive agreements.

“Critically, the new administration should allow the public to see this information, no longer abetting the Obama administration’s many FOIA stonewalls,” Horner said.

CEI is specifically asking for emails of State Department officials Trigg Talley and Alexandra Costello who the group says was involved in coming up with the Obama administration’s plan to circumvent the Senate.

The think tank also filed suit against the State Department in October over the agency’s failure to produce records regarding a separate FOIA request for Paris accord documents.

The group sued for communications between two top Obama administration officials and members of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund.

CEI also targeted emails former State Department Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan — who served as a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

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