Update: April 19, 2017
American Oversight filed two lawsuits for records related to any wiretaps of Trump Tower and for other documents related to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.

The first lawsuit seeks the release of records from the Department of Justice – including warrant applications and court orders – for surveillance of Trump Tower or associates of the Trump campaign. Read more about that issue and review our FOIA requests below.

The second lawsuit seeks two sets of documents from the FBI: information about White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus’s attempt to persuade the bureau to rebut media reports about the investigation into the Trump campaign, and the vetting form – the SF 86 – on which Attorney General Jeff Sessions should have disclosed any contacts with foreign government officials. More information about the Sessions and Priebus investigations can be found below.


We know that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to support the Trump campaign, and we know that law enforcement and security agencies of the U.S. government have opened investigations into that interference.

While questions still remain about the extent to which the Trump campaign may have coordinated with Russia, there are now also questions about how Trump administration officials – including the president himself – may have misled the public about this issue, violated laws and ethics rules, or attempted to interfere with national security investigations.

While Congress has begun to investigate, its approach does not inspire confidence. House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes was required to step aside from leading the investigation after allegations that he improperly disclosed classified information to the public – information that he appears to have been fed by allies in the White House for the express purpose of clouding the facts. And while other committees are investigating Russia issues, their work may take months or years, all while the administration continues to make misleading statements to the public.

American Oversight launched an investigation to get straight answers to some of the most pressing, non-classified questions about how the Trump administration has conducted itself in the face of these Russia allegations.  It is time for the administration to start telling the truth.

Questions We’re Investigating

American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act requests demanding the release of documents answering the following key questions. We will post our findings here.


“Wiretapping” Trump Tower

What We’re Seeking:

FBI records relating to any potential surveillance of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Issue:

On March 4, 2017, President Trump asserted that former President Obama, had placed wiretaps on Mr. Trump and entities or associates in Trump Tower for improper purposes during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign.

When asked about the basis for Mr. Trump’s assertions, the White House stated, “He’s the president of the United States. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not.”

The president is the highest authority in the executive branch, by announcing wiretaps to the world, he has effectively declassified their existence. American Oversight has requested that the DOJ release records relating to these wiretaps – including any warrants and court orders – so that the public may assess the validity of President Trump’s claims.

FOIA Requests

  • March 20, 2017 – Department of Justice – Warrant applications or records requesting a court order to intercept communications related to candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower, entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign; court orders approving or rejecting those requests; records of those wiretaps, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues. (DOJ-17-0035)
  • March 20, 2017 – Department of Justice – Communications between the FBI and DOJ regarding President Trump’s allegations; communications between the White House Counsel’s office and the FBI or DOJ regarding wiretaps of Trump Tower, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues. (DOJ-17-0036)

Investigation Status:

Court Filings

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Political Interference at the FBI

What We’re Seeking:

Communications between White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the FBI regarding the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian contacts.

The Issue:

On February 14, 2017, the New York Times and other news outlets began reporting that associates affiliated with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign had contact with Russian intelligence officials. The White House denied the allegation.

The following week, reports began to emerge that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had contacted the FBI to ask the agency “to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.”

In May 2009, then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memorandum to the heads of all Department of Justice components (including the FBI) and all U.S. Attorneys entitled, “Communications with the White House and Congress.” The memo reads:

“Initial communications between the Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President or the Vice President, from the side of the White House.”

There have been no reports that the memo has been rescinded or revised.

The public has a right to know whether the White House Chief of Staff acted consistent with long-standing DOJ protocol. Moreover, the public deserves information regarding whether and to what extent the FBI may have agreed or acquiesced to disregarding DOJ protocol.

FOIA Request:

  • March 9, 2017 – Federal Bureau of Investigation – Communications between Priebus and the FBI regarding February 2017 news reports of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian contacts; communications between the FBI and news media about this issue; communications between the FBI and Congress about this issue. (DOJ-17-0006)

Investigation Status:

  • The FBI has acknowledged our request but not yet responded.

Court Filings

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Disclosure of Contacts with Russian Officials

What We’re Seeking:

  • The portion of Jeff Sessions’s security clearance investigation form (SF-86) in which he would have listed any foreign contacts.
  • DOJ records relating to any contacts between then-Senator Sessions and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Issue:

During his confirmation hearing to serve as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions failed to disclose his contacts with Russian government officials – but we don’t know if he also omitted these contacts when he applied for a security clearance.

In response to a question from Senator Al Franken, Sessions stated that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign:

FRANKEN: …But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

Then, on March 1, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on at least two occasions in 2016, calling his testimony into question.

Senate confirmation is not the only vetting process for newly-appointed government officials. To serve as Attorney General, Sessions would also have been required undergo a background investigation to receive a security clearance, and as part of that investigation, he would have been asked about any foreign contacts.

If Sessions attempted to hide these contacts from investigators as well as the United States Senate, it would raise serious questions about his fitness to serve as Attorney General.

American Oversight is seeking the release of the page of Sessions’s background investigation form (SF-86) on which he would have listed any contacts with Russian officials, and we are also requesting records of what DOJ knew about Sessions’s Russian contacts prior to his confirmation.

FOIA Requests:

Investigation Status: 

  • The FBI has acknowledged our request regarding Sessions’s SF-86 but has not responded.
  • DOJ has replied to two of our requests regarding records relating Sessions’s contacts with Russian officials (DOJ-17-0007; DOJ-17-0008) and indicated that they have found no responsive records. For another request (DOJ-17-0009), DOJ has acknowledged the request but has not replied.
  • DOJ has not yet acknowledged the remaining requests.

Court Filings

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Recusal from Matters Relating to the 2016 Campaign

What We’re Seeking:

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s formal recusal document from matters relating to the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • DOJ records of any memoranda, ethics advice, or other analysis related to the recusal.

The Issue:

On March 2, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Apart from Sessions’s initial statement to the press, we don’t know exactly what this recusal includes because the document has never been released to the public.

The American people have a right to know what matters the Attorney General is – and is not – involved in, so that we can be confident that he is not helping to direct investigations into matters such as the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.

FOIA Requests:

  • March 13, 2017 – Department of Justice – A copy of the formal recusal document for Attorney General Jeff Sessions from matters relating to the 2016 presidential campaign; decision memoranda provided to Sessions regarding the recusal; records of any advice or analysis prepared by the Departmental Ethics Office, the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, or senior DOJ officials regarding the recusal.

Investigation Status:

  • DOJ has not yet acknowledged our request.

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Blocking Congressional Testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates

What We’re Seeking:

  • Communications between DOJ and Congress or the White House regarding Sally Yates’ potential testimony to Congress.
  • Legal analysis or background materials provided to the White House by DOJ regarding Sally Yates’ potential testimony to Congress.
  • Communications with Attorney General Jeff Sessions or his staff regarding Sally Yates’ potential testimony to Congress.

The Issue:

In late March 2017, Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (House Intelligence Committee), cancelled a previously-planned open hearing into connections between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, at which former acting attorney general Sally Yates was scheduled to testify.

On March 28, 2017, it was reported that DOJ officials had attempted to prevent Yates from testifying at that hearing on the grounds that all of her testimony would have been covered by the presidential communications privilege and/or the deliberative process privilege.

As questions continue to arise about the ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the American people deserve to know whether and how the Trump administration has been cooperating with—or obstructing—that investigation.

FOIA Requests:

  • March 29, 2017 – Department of Justice – Communications between DOJ and Congress regarding the potential testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before the House Intelligence Committee (DOJ-17-0061)
  • March 29, 2017 – Department of Justice – Communications between DOJ and the White House regarding the potential testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before the House Intelligence Committee (DOJ-17-0062)
  • March 29, 2017 – Department of Justice – Legal analysis provided to the White House regarding the potential testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before the House Intelligence Committee (DOJ-17-0063)
  • March 29, 2017 – Department of Justice – Communications sent or received by Attorney General Sessions or others in his office relating to the potential testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before the House Intelligence Committee (DOJ-17-0064)

Investigation Status:

  • DOJ has acknowledged our request but not yet responded.

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