The Justice Department is acknowledging that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States last year when filling out his security clearance form -- a disclosure that an FBI official advised Sessions he didn't have to make since the meetings were through his official capacity as a U.S. senator, according to a department official.
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The lack of disclosure about Sessions' two meetings with Russian Ambassador Secret Kislyak was first reported by CNN.
The encounters ultimately led to Sessions announcing in March that he was recusing himself from any investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
The documentation for Sessions' clearance requested a list of contacts with foreign governments or their representatives over a period of the previous seven years.
The Justice Department official with knowledge of the situation, explaining the FBI's recommendation, said that the stipulation would be particularly burdensome and broad for a senator.
The Justice Department's Deputy Director of Public Affairs Ian Prior issued a response to CNN's story Wednesday evening, portraying Sessions as having followed the instructions given to him.
"As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds—if not thousands—of foreign dignitaries and their staff," said Prior in the statement. "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."
Kislyak has been at the center of the Russian controversies swirling around the White House since Trump's election. His contact with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's actions to mislead the administration about the nature of their conversations lead to Flynn's forced resignation in February.
The ambassador was also present for a White House meeting earlier this month in which President Donald Trump shared classified intelligence.