Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.
Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn’t note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list “any contact” he or his family had with a “foreign government” or its “representatives” over the past seven years, officials said.
The new information from the Justice Department is the latest example of Sessions failing to disclose contacts he had with Russian officials. He has come under withering criticism from Democrats following revelations that he did not disclose the same contacts with Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year.
In that article CNN notes that a spokeswoman told them that Sessions wasn’t required to list those contacts:
Sessions initially listed a year’s worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security clearance form, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. But she says he and his staff were then told by an FBI employee who assisted in filling out the form, known as the SF-86, that he didn’t need to list dozens of meetings with foreign ambassadors that happened in his capacity as a senator.
After CNN’s story published, a spokesman responded to the reporting with a statement, saying that Sessions was instructed not to list meetings like the ones with Kislyak on his form.
CNN then conducted their legal expert who suggested Sessions spokeswoman wasn’t correct:
A legal expert who regularly assists officials in filling out the form disagrees with the Justice Department’s explanation, suggesting that Sessions should have disclosed the meetings.
“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 who specializes in national security law.
But now, 7 months later, CNN admits that Sessions and his spokeswoman was right all along:
A newly released document shows that the FBI told an aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Sessions wasn’t required to disclose foreign contacts that occurred in the course of carrying out his government duties when he was a senator.
The FBI email from March bolsters the explanation by the Justice Department for why Sessions didn’t disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador in his application for a US security clearance. When the omission of the foreign contacts on the form was first reported by CNN in May, the Justice Department said Sessions’ office was advised by the FBI that he didn’t need to disclose the meetings.
An FBI agent, whose name isn’t made public in the document released by the bureau, was responding in March to a query from Sessions’ assistant. The assistant sought confirmation of what she said was an earlier conversation on the matter. At the time, news of Sessions’ Russian contacts had recently become public and prompted fierce political criticism.
The agent didn’t recall the earlier conversation but affirmed that “he was not required to list foreign government contacts while in official government business unless he developed personal relationships from such contacts.”
The agent sent an email to his supervisor describing the new inquiry from Sessions’ assistant.
The FBI first released the document to a group called Right Wing Watch under a FOIA request. CNN obtained it separately from the Justice Department.
So there you have it. CNN’s reporting was wrong and now they have egg on their face again.
Talk about a bad week for CNN. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Trump on this as soon as he gets time to tweet about CNN and FAKE NEWS.