Comey Dismissal - Attorney General

Alexander Rony filed this request with the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General of the United States of America.
Tracking #




From: Alexander Rony

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records relating to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' May 9 letter to Donald Trump concerning FBI Director James Comey. Please include emails, memoranda, letters, and meeting agendas – including draft documents – that were created between April 25, 2017 and May 9, 2017.

For reference, you can find a copy of the May 9 letter at I have attached a PDF version of my FOIA request for improved readability.

Exempt Records

Should you decide to invoke a FOIA exemption with regard to any of the requested records, please include in your response letter sufficient information for an appeal, including:

1. Basic factual material about each withheld item, including the originator, date, length, general subject matter, and location of each item.
2. Explanations and justifications for denial, including the identification of the category within the governing statutory provision under which the document (or portion thereof) was withheld and a full explanation of how each exemption fits the withheld material.

If you determine that portions of a requested record are exempt from disclosure, please redact the exempt portions and provide the remainder of the record.

Fee Waiver Request

I respectfully request that you waive all fees in connection with this request as provided by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 40 C.F.R. § 2.107(l). The Sierra Club is a national environmental nonprofit with no commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Instead, our organization intends to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public can be better informed and meaningfully participate in government oversight.

As explained below, this FOIA request satisfies the factors listed in the Justice Department's governing regulations for waiver or reduction of fees, as well as the requirements of fee waiver under the FOIA statute – that “disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii), see also 40 C.F.R. § 2.107(l).

The subject matter of the requested records is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government by detailing the events that resulted in the abrupt dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ample news reports – a portion of which are included below – demonstrate both the large amount of public interest in this issue as well as the surprising nature of the announcement. The documents disclosed by this request will answer many of those open questions.

Furthermore, because Attorney General Sessions has publicly recused himself from investigations into potential collusion between Russian-backed parties and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, there is a clear public interest in determining if the proper internal protocols were followed for this matter. The FBI Director oversees investigators who are reportedly looking into contacts between some Trump associates and Russian officials.

According to Politico, the firing was motivated by the Trump-Russia investigation: New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt claimed that this dismissal was being discussed since at least last week, and that Attorney General Sessions was tasked with coming up with a rationale: If both reports are true, the documents disclosed by this request could demonstrate political interference with an active investigation.

The Sierra Club and its supporters have demonstrated interest and expertise in the subject area, specifically the development of policies designed to safeguard our democracy and ensure government transparency. The Sierra Club maintains an active Democracy program and weighs in when nominations and legislation affect that work. In recent months, tens of thousands of our supporters have sent letters to government officials regarding the Trump-Russia investigation.

Media Requester Status

The Sierra Club has the ability and intention to disseminate the information it receives through this request. The information may be shared through emails to an audience reaching into the millions, Facebook and Twitter posts reaching tens of thousands of followers, articles on our often-visited website, and analysis provided to the media.

My professional duties at the Sierra Club include composing mass communications to our followers, analyzing FOIA responses, and coordinating with press secretaries. Here are three such examples that resulted from my work:

The bulk of my work entails planning and writing content about public policy issues that is distributed through email, webpages, and social media. I ask that, in addition to being granted a public interest fee waiver, I be properly categorized as a media use requester.

Expedited Treatment

Due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the FBI director's ouster by the president and attorney general, I request expedited treatment of this FOIA request. As described in the section above, my primary professional activity is information dissemination. The information contained in this request is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

This request meets the three primary factors in determining whether there is an urgency to inform:

1. The request concerns a matter of current exigency to the American public, given the central roles the involved officials play in several prominent investigations and the possibility that they are using their positions to influence those investigations. Citizens have a clear and present need to know what decisions led to the immediate ouster of the FBI director, given the agency's broad law enforcement and counterterrorism mission.
2. The consequences of delaying a response would compromise a significant recognized interest. Delaying this information through the normal FOIA process would represent a clear loss in value to the developing breaking news story. Furthermore, the president is likely to nominate a replacement FBI director in the coming days ahead; U.S. senators and citizens should have these documents available at that time to provide context during the confirmation process.
3. The request concerns federal government activity, specifically the activity that took place at the U.S. Department of Justice.

On top of the reasons mentioned above, 28 C.F.R. § 16.5(e)(1)(iv) provides for expedited processing when there is a "matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity that affect public confidence." That may as well have been written about the topic of this request. Evidence of this exceptional media interest and ongoing national discussion can be found in this relatively small sample of news articles:

Record Delivery

I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not. In the event that there are fees, please inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. Please also include an explanation of why I was not granted the fee waivers.

Please produce the records on a rolling basis; at no point should the search for – or deliberation concerning – certain records delay the production of others that the agency has already retrieved and elected to produce.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within the statutory deadline.


Alexander Rony
Sierra Club

Enclosures: (4 pages)


This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (
* Tracking Number: DOJ-2017-004014
* Requester Name: Alexander Rony
* Date Submitted: 05/10/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: FOIA request - seek expedition


Attached is this Office's acknowledgement of the above-referenced request.

From: Alexander Rony

Hello, I am following up about FOIA request DOJ-2017-004014 (AG), which was expedited on May 19, 2017 and is listed on FOIAonline as having had an estimated date of completion of June 8, 2017. Is there an update to my request's status?

From: Muckrock Staff

To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following request, copied below. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

We are reviewing records for responsiveness and will respond to you again once that review is complete and our disclosure determinations have been made.

Initial Request Staff
Office of Information Policy

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Attached is correspondence from the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy, which is associated with the above-referenced Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Please do not reply to this e-mail, as this account is not monitored.

Thank you,
Initial Request Staff
Office of Information Policy
U.S. Department of Justice

202-514-3642 (Main Line)
202-514-1009 (Fax)