WASHINGTON ― The Department of Justice is refusing to confirm or deny the existence of a letter of resignation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly prepared at the request of President Donald Trump.
Trump has been stewing for months over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the DOJ investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, which later resulted in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel on that investigation. Trump referred to his own attorney general as “beleaguered” and has criticized Sessions’ job performance in multiple interviews. Sessions called the public criticism “hurtful,” but said he wouldn’t resign.
HuffPost submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking a copy of any resignation letter that Sessions drafted after Politico reported the existence of the letter. It was written in May following Trump’s outbursts over Session’s recusal, according to Politico.
In response to the FOIA request, a Justice Department representative wrote HuffPost on Thursday that even to acknowledge the existence of such a letter would violate the attorney general’s privacy.
“I have decided to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of such a record,” department official Vanessa Brinkmann wrote. “Even to acknowledge the existence of an alleged letter of resignation could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” she explained.
In FOIA speak, that type of language is called a Glomar response, and is often used in the national security realm when records are classified. It’s also used to deny FOIA requests for investigative records about individuals on the grounds that even acknowledging that a person is under investigation would be an invasion of that individual’s privacy rights. In this case, the Justice Department is claiming that disclosing the existence of a letter that Sessions reportedly authored as part of his job would violate his privacy rights.
A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment on the reported letter or Sessions’ current relationship with the president.
Publicly, the attorney general’s standing in the Trump administration has improved in recent months. He’s no longer facing a wave of criticism from the president as he did in July. This week, Sessions was the face of the Trump administration’s announcement about ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that protects young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.