On Tuesday evening, as senators prepared to vote to acquit President Donald Trump on impeachment charges including obstruction of Congress, the Department of Energy released a second batch of Ukraine-related records in response to American Oversight’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The release, just two hours before the president’s State of the Union address, includes emails between top Energy officials and Michael Bleyzer — a Houston businessman whom former Secretary Rick Perry reportedly suggested for a seat on the board of the Ukrainian state-owned gas company Naftogaz. Some of the emails are from May 2019, immediately before Perry led a delegation to Ukraine for the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In one May 18 email exchange with Samuel Buchan, an Energy Department adviser who worked in international affairs in Perry’s office, Bleyzer references a WhatsApp message he sent to Buchan and indicates that he was working “on the ground” to set up meetings in Kyiv.
Bleyzer was in communication with Perry’s former chief of staff, Brian McCormack, as far back as the summer of 2017. The records include emails referencing a July 22 call to “connect … about a few items.”
According to the documents, McCormack and Bleyzer were still in touch in December 2018, when Bleyzer sent a message to what appears to be McCormack’s personal email account.
“As the Senate prepares to vote to acquit, the public still knows almost nothing about the role of the so-called ‘third amigo,’ Secretary Rick Perry,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “Tonight’s release is a reminder that in addition to the president’s personal and political interests, well-connected individuals with a stake in the Ukrainian energy industry were swirling around U.S. policymakers throughout the period of the scheme. It’s time to follow the money, as well as the many other leads the Senate has left unexamined.”
American Oversight filed several FOIA requests with the Energy Department in the fall of 2019, seeking a range of records, including Perry’s communications with outside groups associated with U.S. energy interests in Ukraine, any directives or memoranda referencing the Ukrainian energy holding company Burisma, and Perry’s communications with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates. We are also seeking records regarding the 2019 delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration.
For Tuesday’s production, the agency agreed to prioritize any responsive records from the following categories: communications between Perry or his assistants and Bleyzer and his associates; communications Perry or McCormack had with Giuliani or about Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine; and communications between high-ranking Energy officials and specific American and Ukrainian energy groups and individuals, including Lev Parnas.
The Department of Energy first produced records on Jan. 28, 2020, releasing 139 pages of records to American Oversight including schedules, talking points, and background materials prepared for Perry’s briefing book for the May 2019 delegation.