A conservative nonprofit government watchdog group sued Tuesday to obtain records about an event held outside the Republican National Convention in 2016, one that Democrats have held up as evidence of President Donald Trump’s ties to the Russians.
The event in Cleveland featured dozens of foreign diplomats, including then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who then was a U.S. senator from Alabama and a top Trump adviser, delivered a speech to the group and then exchanged pleasantries with Kislyak (pictured above) and other ambassadors as he walked through the room.
In response to questions during his confirmation hearing, Sessions did not disclose that encounter or a more formal meeting he held with Kislyak in his Senate office that year. Democrats ever since have accused Sessions of lying and have suggested that it might point to Trump campaign complicity with Russian interference in the campaign.
Independent counsel Robert Mueller reportedly has sought information about conversations between Sessions and Kislyak.
One of the curious aspects of the “meeting” between Sessions and Kislyak — beyond the fact that chatting in a crowded room after a speech hardly qualifies as a meeting — is that President Barack Obama’s administration helped organize the event.
Judicial Watch has been seeking records related to the federal government’s role in the event since November 2017. The group filed suit Tuesday under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., after the government failed for months to respond to its requests.
“Judicial Watch is trying to figure out the Obama administration’s role in getting the Russian ambassador to the RNC convention,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The Deep State would have it appear the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to have the Russia ambassador visit the RNC convention, when the fact seems to be that the Obama State Department was behind his attendance.
“Attorney General Sessions’ communications with the Russia ambassador have been the subject of controversial unmasking and illegal leaks, so this new federal lawsuit may provide essential information.”
Specifically, Judicial Watch asked for all records pertaining to Kislyak’s attendance at the July 2016 convention, including communications between the Department of State and the Russian Embassy, and records of the Diplomatic Security Service related to the ambassador’s travel.
The request for documents covers the period from July 1, 2015, to Oct. 1, 2016.