Request cites urgency to make information public as possibility for Trump impeachment looms
June 15, 2017, New York, NY – Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sought documents under federal law, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking the immediate release of Department of Justice records referenced by Attorney General Jefferson Sessions in his testimony under oath before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Tuesday. Sessions cited a purported longstanding DOJ policy as the basis for his refusal to answer questions from SSCI members about his communications with President Trump regarding investigations of Russian operatives’ interference in the U.S. presidential election. CCR’s FOIA request also asks for all records related to any legal opinions, analysis, or recommendations concerning the legal and/or policy basis for Sessions’s refusal to answer questions posed by SSCI members.
Sessions’s testimony is the latest in months of turmoil over the probe into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia in an effort to interfere with the U.S. presidential election and whether Trump and Sessions are themselves obstructing justice. Though Sessions testified in an open session, he refused to answer questions about potential interference with the ongoing investigations, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and stopping the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Sessions testified that President Trump had not invoked executive privilege to prevent him from answering SSCI members’ questions. Yet, when probed by Senator Kamala Harris about his refusal, he testified that the novel basis for his refusing to answer questions were actually part of existing DOJ policies.
CCR’s FOIA request underscores the pressing need to bring this information to the fore. It reads:
There is an urgent need to clarify and inform the public about AG Sessions’s refusal to answer questions posed by SSCI members… As is plainly obvious to anyone who turns on the television or radio, goes online, or walks into the streets, these are matters of grave national importance that have already resulted not only in the firings of Mr. Comey and Mr. Flynn, but in congressional investigations, an FBI investigation, the recusal of AG Sessions, and the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation (who President Trump is reportedly considering firing) and may well result in the impeachment of the president.
“The existence and terms of this supposed policy prohibiting the attorney general from answering investigators’ questions must be made public immediately,” said J. Wells Dixon, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “At stake is both the public’s ability to engage with the critical legal and political issues surrounding this case and, more broadly, the question of whether the president and the Attorney General of the United States are violating the Constitution and engaging in a campaign to obstruct ongoing criminal investigations.”