I guess it was bound to happen — the ultimate constitutional question: What happened when the top law enforcement agency refuses to comply with the courts?
It has happened on the state level — with desegregation. The governors refused to comply with Brown v Board of Education. So the federal government was sent in, in the form of the US Department of Justice. They sent in the National Guard.
But what happens if the US Department of Justice itself doesn’t comply with a court order? We’re about to find out. And it is such a small matter, too:
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 that 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’ contact “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.
Sessions has admitted speaking with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at least twice in 2016, which he did not disclose at his confirmation hearing. But in June, Sessions testified to senators that the “suggestion that I participated in any collusion” with the Russian government “is an appalling and detestable lie.”
American Oversight says it’s nonpartisan, but its staff has connections to Democrats, according to USA Today.
A status conference in the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
This is all under-the-radar right now. I don’t imagine it can remain that way for very long. To be continued…..
UPDATE – – 2 pm:
BREAKING: DOJ releases single, redacted page of Sessions’s SF86 security clearance form to American Oversight. https://t.co/9e7tkMHPAn
— American Oversight (@weareoversight) July 13, 2017
In a filing this morning with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department released that part of Sessions’ form which poses the question:
“Have you or any of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years [bold font in original] had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc.) or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.?”
Sessions checked “No.”
Well, at least he’s on the record now.