The first FOIA request was for a page of Sessions' security questionnaire
DOJ said Sessions did not disclose contacts with Russia
A US District Court judge in Washington gave the Justice Department one month to make public a page of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ clearance form, on which he was meant to disclose any contacts with Russian officials.
Judge Randolph Moss’ order came the day before Sessions was due to testify in public before the Senate intelligence committee. The order gave the government until July 12 to produce any documents not subject to a FOIA exemption from the request for the page of Sessions’ SF-86 form, a security clearance questionnaire. The order allows for the Justice Department to consider the legality of producing the form and if the Justice Department can redact the release because of exemptions in federal public records law.
The judge’s decision issued Monday afternoon also gave the Justice Department and the FBI one month to search for any records of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus’ reported outreach to the FBI requesting the bureau refute reports of communications between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign. The government has until July 12 to complete a search for any records of Priebus’ requests to the FBI. Moss ordered a status conference the next day, July 13.
The decision came in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from American Oversight, a nonprofit that says it relies on FOIA to investigate the Trump administration.
Sessions has come under heavy scrutiny for not saying in his confirmation hearing that he had meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the lead up to the 2016 election. After that failure to disclose came to light, Sessions defended himself and sent supplemental testimony to the Senate. CNN reported in May that Sessions omitted any of these meetings from his SF-86. In response to that report, the DOJ insisted the decision not to list the meetings was above-board.
CNN reported last week that former FBI Director James Comey told senators in a closed session that Sessions might have met with Kislyak a third time.
American Oversight’s second request in the judge’s order Monday stemmed from February reports saying Priebus reached out to Comey and his former deputy, Andrew McCabe, who is now the acting director of the bureau. CNN reported at the time that the FBI denied Priebus’ request, although White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time that the White House was simply asking the FBI “to tell the truth” in response to reports about Trump campaign communications with Russian officials.
Comey did take issue with the February New York Times report during his testimony last week. Comey did not state specifically what he disputed, and The New York Times stood by its story.
The White House and FBI did not respond to requests for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.
CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this story.