This week, the Department of Justice finally released the calendars of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — records American Oversight had first requested in the fall of 2018.
American Oversight had sued the Justice Department for the records in April 2019 — more than two years ago. Since that Freedom of Information Act request, filed the month before Sessions was ousted, there have been five officials besides Sessions serving as attorney general. The fact that it took three years and a lawsuit to find out how former President Donald Trump’s first attorney general spent his time highlights the need for real FOIA reform, including the allocation of more resources to the processing of requests.
The calendar entries cover February 2017 through July 2018, and reference several meetings with conservative legal activist Leonard Leo as well as John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut whom Attorney General William Barr would later appoint to lead the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
Other 2017 calendar entries include a Feb. 24 phone call with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and a March 17 phone call with Fox News host Sean Hannity. The calendars also show meetings regarding the census as well as one with anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, attended by then-DOJ attorney Chad Mizelle, who later joined the Department of Homeland Security as acting general counsel.
The schedules of cabinet officials are important public records that reveal a lot about an administration’s priorities. Extreme delays in releasing such records can preclude meaningful accountability for public figures, and demonstrate the importance of reforming the government’s handling of FOIA requests. Recently, we outlined seven key fixes to FOIA and record-keeping that would improve transparency — read more here.
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