Legal Ethics

ACLU files ethics complaint against Jeff Sessions over his Russia testimony

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Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the Alabama State Bar, where he is licensed to practice law, alleging that the U.S. attorney general has been dishonest about meeting with the country’s ambassador to Russia.

Another complaint was filed by J. Whitfield Larrabee, a Massachusetts lawyer in private practice, reports. Both allege that Sessions violated provision 8.4 (c) of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct (PDF), which states that it’s professional misconduct for an attorney to engage in dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful behavior, or engage in misrepresentation.

During his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings, in January, Sessions testified that he was not aware of any evidence that someone affiliated with the Trump campaign spoke with the Russian government during the presidential campaign. The Washington Post later reported that Sessions spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July 2016 and then again in September 2016. The later meeting between then-Sen. Sessions and Kislyak was during a peak time in an alleged Russian cyber campaign meant to influence the U.S. presidential race, according to the Washington Post.

After these revelations came out, Sessions recused himself from any investigations involving the 2016 presidential campaign.

The ACLU complaint states that Sessions, in written and oral statements, has said that he “had no contact with the Russians.”

“Specific to Mr. Sessions’ position as United States Senator at the time of his false statement and his current position of Attorney General of the United States, the Comment to Rule 8.4 provides, ‘Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of normal citizens,’” Chris Anders, deputy director at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, wrote in the complaint. “A lawyer’s abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of attorney.”

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