Recent reports revealed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with Russian envoys during the election campaign, but he lied to the Senate about it.
Now, another report reveals that he did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance.
As CNN reports, Sessions did not mention on the security clearance form that he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least twice last year. The form required him to list "any contact" he or his family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the past seven years.
According to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, he had initially listed a year's worth of meeting with foreign officials on his security clearance form. However, an FBI employee who was helping Sessions fill out the documents then said that he didn't need to list the dozens of meetings he had with foreign ambassadors while serving in the U.S. Senate.
Spokesman Ian Prior responded to the reporting with a statement saying, “As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff. 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.”
However, Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law, doesn't agree with the Justice Department's explanation.
“My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business,” Zaid said.
Federal officials don't have to disclose meetings with foreign officials if those meetings were part of a conference abroad, attended as part of normal government business. However, Sessions' meetings don’t fall into the description.
This is the second time the attorney general has been caught not being forthcoming about his meetings with Russian officials. Recently, The Washington Post revealed that he lied under oath about his contacts with Russia as he didn't mention the get-togethers when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
However, later he confirmed those meetings after the report was came out. Following the report, Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling.