It has just been reported to CNN by the Justice Department that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not report at least two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place last year. He was required to list “any contact” he or his family had with “foreign government” or its “representatives” over the past seven years on a security clearance form, officials said.
This is the latest fire that Sessions has come under for failing to disclose his interactions with Russian officials. After it had been reported that he did not disclose these meetings at his confirmation hearings with the Senate, Sessions decided to recuse himself from any probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Sessions initially listed a year’s worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security forms. But, according to a Justice Department spokesperson, Sessions was told by an FBI agent who was assisting in filling out the forms that said he did not need to list dozens of meetings he had with foreign officials that happened while he served as a senator. “As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” spokesman Ian Prior said. “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.”
A legal expert who also assists officials in filling out the forms disagrees with this assessment. “My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business,” said Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney specializing in national security law.
This is just the latest controversy regarding the Trump administration’s disclosure of contacts with foreign officials. Jared Kushner prematurely submitted his forms without listing international contacts and had to notify the FBI the next day letting them know he was willing to provide the information. And Michael Flynn is under investigation for not properly disclosing payments linked to foreign trips and Russia.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has called for Jeff Sessions to testify publically. On CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Blumenthal said that this news requires “intense and immediate investigation.” “I am deeply troubled by his failure to testify, apparently, truthfully before our committee in the course of his confirmation hearing, and then possibly in other ways to fail to be completely truthful,” he said. Senator Chuck Schumer also weighed in on wanting Sessions to testify, “I’d be happy if they brought him before the committee and had him testify.” Schumer, also noted, “Look, there are a lot of questions about Jeff Sessions. That’s why I called on him to resign.”
Credit: CNN Politics