The Competitive Enterprise Institute on Monday sued the State Department a second time for withholding emails and texts related to the Obama administration's strategy to thwart Senate Republicans in joining the Paris climate change deal.
The free-market think tank formally petitioned the State Department in both August and October under the Freedom of Information Act to release emails and texts from two officials, Trigg Talley and Alexandra Costello. The group says the correspondence will show the level of maneuvering by the Obama administration to find a way around Senate ratification to join the Paris Agreement.
The State Department did not respond to the group's request by the FOIA deadline, so it sued the agency for the first time in October. In filing its second lawsuit against the agency on Monday in the D.C. District Court, it said the State Department has continued to "illegally" withhold the documents.
Talley, the group said, is at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, where the discussion is focused on meeting the greenhouse gas targets set under the December 2015 agreement.
Talley is a holdover from the Obama administration who serves as director of the State Department's Office of Global Change. The office is in charge of "implementing and managing U.S. international policy on climate change," according to agency's website.
"Trigg Talley and Alexandra Costello were both members of the State Department when the decision was made to avoid characterizing the Paris Agreement as a treaty," CEI said. Making the climate agreement a non-binding accord allowed the Obama administration to bypass the Senate ratification process, where it likely would have been stalled or voted down.
“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," said Chris Horner, a fellow at the group.
Prior correspondence obtained by the group showed Costello, who served as the agency's Senate liaison, discussing with a lawyer for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a 2014 New York Times article that described the Obama administration's plan to go around the Senate.
"In response to an August 2014 New York Times report about Obama’s plan to circumvent the Senate, the lawyer said this news 'indicate[s] a disturbing contempt for the Senate’s constitutional rights and responsibilities,'” the group said. "Yet, Chairman Corker never publicly opposed Obama’s circumvention of the Senate. CEI seeks to learn just why this silence occurred."