One term that Americans who have been following the Russia investigation closely have become familiar with is Standard Form 86, or SF86. This is the security form on which government employees seeking security clearances are required to reveal contacts with foreign entities and officials.
The SF86 has become important in the Russia investigation because officials in the Trump administration were, to put it mildly, less than forthcoming in filling out their forms. This has resulted in some about-faces and continued nose-thumbing in the news Thursday morning.
Reports this week say that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner neglected to include his meeting in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. This meeting, set up by Donald Trump Jr., is now at the heart of the collusion investigation and resulted in Kushner amending his SF86 to include it.
Then on Thursday morning, the New York Times reported that Kushner has had to revise his SF86 three times, adding more than 100 new foreign contacts to it.
That is a lot of foreign contacts to have forgotten about, even when one runs a family real-estate business that has some overseas interests. It speaks to either arrogance, incompetence, or laziness on Kushner’s part when he first filled out the form.
Or something more sinister, like he was trying to cover up shady meetings with foreign nationals while he was working on the Trump campaign last year.
Or possibly all four. At this point, nothing should surprise us with this crew.
The other SF86 in the news Thursday is that of Attorney General and angry-faced garden gnome Jeff Sessions.
Questions have surrounded Sessions’s form ever since it was discovered that he had lied in his confirmation hearings by neglecting to mention that he had met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year, at a time when he was a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
Sessions claimed his meeting with Kislyak was performed in the course of his duties as a senator, but he still recused himself from the DOJ’s Russia investigation. Still, an outside advocacy group filed a Freedom of Information request for Sessions’s SF86, then sued the DOJ for it. A judge then ordered the form to be released by Wednesday, July 12.
Thursday morning, NPR reported that the DOJ missed that deadline. A little later, the department released an amended and heavily redacted version of the form. And wouldn’t you know it, Sessions is still lying.
As flagged by writer Marcy Wheeler, when asked on the form if he had had contact with a representative of a foreign government in the last seven years, Sessions checked “no.”
Sessions will likely argue that any foreign contacts he has had in the last few years were in his duties as a senator, which was his argument for his meetings with Kislyak.
However, since he was doing double duty as a Trump surrogate and one of those meetings took place around last year’s Republican National Convention when Trump accepted the GOP nomination, this seems to be a very disingenuous way to try to get around both the spirit and legal requirements of the SF86.
Even if all of his meetings with foreign officials the last two years really were undertaken as part of his senatorial duties, with the Russian investigation pretty much swallowing everything in its vicinity like a black hole, Sessions must know this explanation isn’t going to hold water for long.
It’s better to admit to the contacts and get them all out in the open. It’s the first rule for investigations like this.
Also, deliberately lying on the SF86 is a felony. It would be nice if the nation’s chief law enforcement officer would be a little less blatant about committing those.
So that is your “high government officials are possibly openly committing felonies and at the very least making their own lives a lot harder” news for this morning. At this point, Trump administration officials should just line up in the Rose Garden and blow the nation a collective raspberry. It would save us a lot of time.