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Ordered by court to disclose his Russia contacts, Sessions releases blank sheet of paper

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What’s he hiding?

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Locher

In response to a court order directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to disclose the part of his security clearance form detailing his Russia contacts, the Department of Justice released a blank page of paper.

The Thursday morning “disclosure” comes in response to a lawsuit from an ethics watchdog group.

According to NPR, a “recently-launched ethics watchdog group called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March for sections of the Standard Form 86 [i.e., security clearance] relating to Sessions’ contacts ‘with any official of the Russian government.’” On June 12, a judge ordered the DOJ to comply with the request within 30 days.

As recently as Wednesday, the DOJ said it planned to comply with the court order. But the deadline came and went this week.

On Thursday morning, the DOJ finally made an attempt to comply with the court order by disclosing a single page document that is totally redacted, except for a box checked ‘No’ that asks whether Sessions had contact with a foreign government in the last seven years.

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In a statement included in the NPR report, American Oversight executive director Austin Evers said, “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.”

“The court gave DOJ thirty days to produce Attorney General Sessions’s security clearance form, 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,” Evers added.

In late May, CNN broke news that Sessions — a former U.S. senator who was arguably candidate Trump’s highest-profile supporter in Congress — failed to disclose his meetings with Russian officials on a security clearance form he filed ahead of becoming attorney general, despite being required “to list ‘any contact’ he or his family had with a ‘foreign government’ or its ‘representatives’ over the past seven years.”

House Republican spreads fake news to discredit damaging report on Jeff Sessions

In March, Sessions recused himself from any investigations related to the Trump campaign after Justice Department officials told the Washington Post he had misled senators during his confirmation hearing about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions had testified that he hadn’t communicated with Russians when he in fact met with Kislyak on at least two occasions.

Despite his recusal, in May, Sessions signed off on the firing of then-FBI Director Director James Comey amid an active investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.

During congressional testimony last month, Sessions characterized any suggestion he was involved in collusion with Russia as an “appalling and detestable lie.” He isn’t the only Trump official who has created problems for himself by not being transparent about his contacts with Russians.

Jared Kusher and Donald Trump Jr.

On Saturday, the New York Times cited revisions White House adviser Jared Kushner’s made to his own security clearance form in a story that broke news about the previously undisclosed June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer.

Donald Trump Jr. releases emails showing Trump campaign knowingly colluded with Russia

“The Trump Tower meeting was not disclosed to government officials until recently, when Mr. Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance,” the Times reported. “The Times reported in April that he had failed to disclose any foreign contacts, including meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of a Russian state bank. Failure to report such contacts can result in a loss of access to classified information and even, if information is knowingly falsified or concealed, in imprisonment.”

Representatives of Trump Jr. initially told the Times that the Trump Tower meeting was “primarily about an adoption program.” But on Tuesday, Trump Jr. published emails showing that the Trump campaign was actually promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before the get-together.

The suspicious circumstances of Kushner’s secret meeting with a Kremlin-connected banker

Days before the meeting, the person who set it up — a Russia-connected music publicist named Rob Goldstone — wrote Trump Jr. and said, “The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone continued, adding that “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.” (Trump, through his lawyer, has denied any knowledge of the meeting.)

During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that aired Tuesday night, Trump Jr. wouldn’t rule out that he had other meetings during the campaign with Russians that the public doesn’t yet know about, saying he “probably met with other people from Russia.” Trump Jr. didn’t delve into details but said he didn’t expect further revelations to be damaging.

“This is everything,” he said.

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Kushner revised his security clearance form three times, adding more than 100 names to the list of contacts he had with foreigners.

Mike Pence

In January, then-Vice President-Elect Mike Pence was asked during a CBS interview whether anyone from the Trump campaign had met with Russian agents.

Pence publicly insisted the Trump campaign wasn’t in contact with Russia. That’s now a big problem.

“Of course not,” Pence replied. “And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

But in the wake of the revelations about Trump Jr.’s emails, a Pence spokesman is walking that back.

During a Fox News interview on Wednesday, Pence press secretary Marc Lotter was pressed about whether Pence himself met with representatives of Russia during the campaign. Lotter repeatedly dodged the question.

https://medium.com/media/ce65be59a3f4172ad30a9746bb69a4c7/href

In a statement released on Tuesday, Lotter seemed to try and distance Pence from the scandal enveloping Trump Jr. and Kushner, saying Pence “was not aware of the meeting” with the Russian lawyer and is “not focused on stories about the campaign — especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.”


Ordered by court to disclose his Russia contacts, Sessions releases blank sheet of paper was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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