Former FBI director James Comey and a former House speaker, John Boehner, are suing the Trump administration to block new sanctions targeting Russia over the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election.
The lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Virginia on Thursday alleges that the Trump Justice Department was “a major player” in blocking sanctions by withholding documents from Congress that showed it was considering taking action to punish Russia for election interference.
The suit also accuses the Trump White House of “perpetuating a false narrative that the President was acting unilaterally, when in fact he was merely following longstanding Department policy and procedures, including that the president should refrain from retaliating against foreign governments.”
It alleges that, since the President announced the sanctions in February, Trump’s team has “perverted the President’s statutory authority and violated his constitutional oaths of office.”
In the suit, the attorneys for the three former Republican leaders argue that Trump’s “executive order was enacted at the behest of the White House,” and the sanctions “are based on Executive Order 13662, a non-binding Presidential Memorandum signed by the President on April 18, 2018.”
The suit names as defendants Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Attorney General Mike Pompeo and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, as well as the Department of Justice, White House Counsel and Office of Management and Budget, which administers the White house budget.
The three former lawmakers also accuse the administration of “deliberately distorting” the scope of the sanctions.
The president had authorized a wide range of sanctions against Russia at the time, including economic sanctions, sanctions on foreign entities and a ban on U.N. ambassadors.
But Trump’s actions in late May and early June were met with a series of legal challenges, including one by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and other Trump aides who accused him of seeking to use the sanctions as leverage to force Russia to back off the hacking of Democratic Party organizations.
Trump has denied that he tried to use his authority to influence the Russian government, which had denied interfering in the election, and has repeatedly said he does not know Russian President Vladimir Putin personally.