Justice Dept. Fails To Comply With Court Order To Release Details On Sessions Russia Contacts
NPR is reporting that the Justice Department has failed to comply with a Federal District Court’s Order that it provide a list of the Attorney General’s contacts with Russian officials:
In defiance of a court order, the Justice Department is refusing to release part of a security form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ contacts with the Russian government.
On June 12, a judge had ordered the agency to provide the information within 30 days, a deadline which passed on Wednesday.
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 relating to Sessions’ contacts “with any official of the Russian government.”
The group then filed a lawsuit in April after it said the government didn’t provide the documents.
“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,” the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement.
He continued: “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.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Justice Department had told NPR that the documents would be released by the deadline, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly reports.
The Standard Form 86, more commonly called SF86, is a very detailed form required to be filled out for obtaining security clearance for certain government positions. It’s the same form presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has recently had to revise after omitting meetings with Russian officials.
Court Ordrs such as this are generally not self-enforcing, so in order for the Justice Department to suffer any consequences from failing to comply with the Order would have to be preceded by the Plaintiffs in the underlying Freedom of Information Act litigation to file a motion with the Judge who issued the order seeking sanctions for noncompliance. Potential sanctions could include everything from forcing the government to pay the attorneys fees incurred by the Plaintiffs in seeking to have the order enforced to the non-complying part to holding the non-complying party in contempt of court. If the Justice Department complies with the Order in the intervening time, then any such motion would likely be withdrawn.