Jeff Sessions says he was advised not to mention Russia meetings

Trump's attorney general insists he was following the FBI's when he omitted it from his security clearance check

By Matthew Rozsa
Published May 25, 2017 8:53AM (EDT)
 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is again under fire for concealing his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The former Alabama senator failed to disclose at least two occasions in which he met with high-ranking Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, according to a CNN report.

In March, Sessions was harshly criticized for claiming during his Senate confirmation hearing that he had had no communication with Russia despite those interactions with Kislyak. Although he recused himself from the FBI's investigation into Russia as a result of this story, he insisted that "I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign."

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Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, defended Sessions' omission from his security clearance forms in a statement reported by The New York Times.

"As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff. The attorney general’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the F.B.I. investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities," Prior said.

Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who focuses on national security law, told CNN that "a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business."

Indeed, as CNN points out, the form that Sessions filled out specifically instructed him to list "any contact" that he or members of his family had had with either a "foreign government" or its "representatives" within the previous seven years.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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