Sessions did not disclose Russian meetings on security clearance application: report

Sessions did not disclose Russian meetings on security clearance application: report
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants DOJ wades into archdiocese fight for ads on DC buses Overnight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector MORE did not disclose on security clearance forms that he met twice last year with Russia's ambassador, CNN reported Wednesday.

The form, SF-86, asks applicants to disclose any contacts with a foreign government or its representatives over the past seven years.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that an FBI employee who was helping Sessions complete the form advised him that he did not have to disclose meetings with foreign ambassadors that took place during his time in the Senate. 

She said Sessions listed a year's worth of meetings with foreign officials on the form.

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CNN notes that federal officials do not have to list meetings that were part of foreign conferences attended while conducting government business — though Sessions's meetings with Sergey Kislyak do not appear to fall under that exemption. 

“As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds—if not thousands—of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” Deputy Director of Public Affairs Ian Prior said in response to CNN’s report. “In filling out the SF-86 form, the attorney general’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

The FBI declined to comment to CNN. 

Sessions came under fire earlier this year amid revelations that he failed to disclose to the Senate his meetings with Kislyak during President Trump's 2016 campaign. 

He has since recused himself from any matters regarding federal investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

But Sessions's involvement in the investigation was called back into question earlier this month, after Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey. Statements released by the White House in the wake of Comey’s ouster said Trump had acted on the advice of Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

After Sessions’s recommendation was made public, some Democratic lawmakers accused him of violating the terms of his recusal, though Trump later said he'd planned fire Comey regardless of the attorney general and deputy attorney general's suggestions. 

The revelation that Sessions had met with Kislyak while he was a campaign surrogate for Trump followed the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had come under fire for failing to disclose to top White House officials the nature of his communications with Kislyak in the month before Trump took office.

— This report was updated at 7:59 p.m.