ACLU files complaint against Jeff Sessions over Russia testimony

The civil liberties group lodged the complaint with the Alabama State Bar.

March 10, 2017, 3:32 AM

— -- The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for testimony he made about Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.

“Mr. Sessions made false statements during sworn testimony on January 10, 2017, and in a subsequent written response to questions on January 17, 2017,” the complaint reads.

“Jeff Sessions told a falsehood to the Senate, and did nothing to correct his statement until he was exposed by the press more than a month later," said Christopher Anders, deputy director of the ACLU's legislative office, in a statement about the complaint.

At issue was Sessions's failure to disclose contacts he had with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

During a January 10 confirmation hearing, Sessions responded to a question from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) about alleged Russian connections to the Trump campaign, in which Sessions had been involved. Sessions told Franken that he "did not have communications with the Russians."

A week later, in response to a question provided to him by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) -- "Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" -- Sessions responded, "No."

After press reports later disclosed that Sessions had on two occasions met with Kislyak in 2016, Sessions said he believed his statements were not inaccurate based on how the questions were phrased.

On March 2, Sessions recused himself from any investigations about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S elections.

"Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign," Sessions told reporters after announcing his decision. "And the idea that I was part of a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries to the Russian government are false."

He said his recusal should not be misconstrued as an admission of guilt.

In launching the complaint against Sessions, the ACLU hopes that the Alabama State Bar will prod the Sessions testimony further.

"I urge the Alabama Bar to investigate this complaint and the statements made by Mr. Sessions to determine whether he violated the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct," read the complaint, which was authored by Anders.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation," according to Alabama State Bar rules.

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