Hours after the U.S. Senate voted against seeking new evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump, the administration acknowledged the existence of two dozen emails that could reveal the president's thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine.
In a midnight court filing, the Justice Department explained why it shouldn't have to unredact copies of more than 100 emails written by officials at the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department about the hold on funds to Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
Heather Walsh, an OMB lawyer, wrote that of the 111 redacted emails in the lawsuit, 24 are protected by "presidential privilege."
"Specifically, the documents in this category are emails that reflect communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine," Walsh wrote.
Democrats spent much of the Senate impeachment trial imploring GOP senators to allow new evidence in the case against Trump.
In the weeks since the December House vote to impeach the president, new evidence against him has emerged, including reports that former White House national security adviser John Bolton says there was a quid pro quo conditioning the aid on investigations by Ukraine that could help the president politically.
Trump and administration officials repeatedly stonewalled the House impeachment probe, refusing to allow some witnesses to testify and to provide requested documents.
Ultimately Democrats could persuade only two Republicans that more evidence was needed. On Friday, the Senate voted 51 to 49 to block new witnesses and documents, clearing the way for Trump's acquittal this week.
Democrats are likely to seize on the new court filing as proof that the trial was incomplete and thus invalid.
Heavily blacked-out versions of the emails in question were released in two batches in December in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Public Integrity after the administration ignored a Freedom of Information Act request for the materials.
The government's filing Friday asked the court to deny the organization's request for unredacted copies.