JUDICIARY

ACLU files ethics complaint against Sessions with Alabama Bar Disciplinary Commission

In this March 2, 2017, photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.

In this March 2, 2017, photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The ACLU has submitted an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, alleging the former senator violated the code of conduct during his confirmation hearing testimony.

"Mr. Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States and violated Rule 8.4 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct," according to the complaint filed Thursday by the ACLU's Chris Anders, deputy director at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, where he represents the ACLU before Congress and the executive branch.

"Mr. Sessions made false statement during sworn testimony on January 10, 2017 and in a subsequent written response to questions January 17, 2017."  Anders continued, "Rule 8.4 (c) of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to 'engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL COMPLAINT

On March 2, Sessions told reporters at the Justice Department that he will recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations” regarding the 2016 presidential campaign, responding to bipartisan pressure to step aside from a probe into Moscow meddling amid revelations he spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador and didn’t disclose it to Congress.

In a press conference, Sessions pushed back forcefully, however, on allegations he misled lawmakers. Though he testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no “communications” with Russia during the campaign, when he was a top surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump, Sessions defended his answer as “honest and correct.”

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” he said.

Sessions said he did not intend to mislead anyone, suggesting he was referring in that hearing only to discussions about the campaign. Still, Sessions said he would write to the Senate Judiciary Committee to “explain this testimony for the record.”

"Jeff Sessions is an honest man," Trump said in a statement released later that day. "He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win."

Earlier this week, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of asking a "gotcha question" after a heating exchange during a confirmation hearing for Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein to become deputy attorney general.

Franken had confronted Rosenstein over Sessions' two previously undisclosed meetings last year with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. when asked if he would prosecute any potential illicit contact between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian officials.

"I consider what Sen. Franken asked Sessions at that late moment, that that story had just come out, as a gotcha question," Grassley said. The Iowa senator then went on to say Franken had new information that Sessions was not aware of during his confirmation hearing.

When asked for comment about the complaint, the Department of Justice referred Fox News back to Sessions' letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, which served as a supplement to his testimony before the committee on January 10.

Anders told Fox News “few events are more corrosive to a democracy than having the future Attorney General make false statements under oath about a matter the Justice Department is investigating."

“No attorney, whether just starting out as a new lawyer or serving as the country’s top law enforcement officer, should lie under oath,” he added. “The Alabama bar must investigate this wrong fully and fairly.” 

Fox News' Matt Dean contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.