The Department of Justice has, ironically, declined to comply with a court order to release a form filed by Jeff Sessions in relation to his communications with the Russian government. The order followed a request for Sessions’ Standard Form 86, pertaining to his security clearance, from ethics watchdog American Oversight through the Freedom of Information Act. The Justice Department missed the 30-day deadline to provide the requested documents, prompting American Oversight to open a lawsuit.
“Jeff Sessions is our nation’s top law enforcement officer, and it is shocking one of his first acts after being named Attorney General was to mislead his own agency about a matter of national security,” said Austin Evers, the American Oversight executive director.
Sessions did not initially disclose two meetings he had with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak until after he was already confirmed as Attorney General. As a result, he has recused himself from oversight of or commentary on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into whether the Trump administration colluded with Russia in the election. Other connections between Sessions and a Russian Lobbyist have since come to light, as well.
The fact the Justice Department let the request slide could say as much, or more than, the form itself. Evers explained that the “DOJ has already confirmed its contents to the press and Sessions has testified about it to Congress, so there is no good reason to withhold this document from the public.” Thus, the organization’s interest in the form could be seen, in part, as legal maneuvering. The lawsuit could also provide insight into the Judicial Branch’s transparency and what motivations it might have for being less than candid or cooperative.
For their part, the Justice Department insisted yesterday that the form would be made available within the 30-day window opened by the lawsuit. There is a conference pertaining to the cases’ status scheduled for Thursday morning at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.