Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn't include meetings with a Russian ambassador when he listed contacts with foreign governments as part of his application for security clearance.
The omission was first confirmed by the Department of Justice to CNN, and comes after it was revealed in March that Sessions didn't disclose those meetings to Congress during his confirmation hearing. After the meetings were publicized, Sessions corrected the congressional record.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said Sessions had been directed to only disclose contacts with foreign governments that took place outside of his official work as a US senator.
"As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands— of foreign dignitaries and their staff," DOJ 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.”
The SF-86 form asks those preparing for national security positions in the government to recount any family ties to foreign countries, foreign financial interests, as well as contact with foreign nationals.
"Have you or any member of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc.) or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.?"
The form notes that contacts for visa applications and border crossings do not need to be disclosed.
The form also asks whether an applicant has provided advice or support to any individual associated with a foreign business or organization. In this section, advice or support given as part of US government business does not need to be disclosed.
In 2016, while Sessions was a senator and Trump surrogate, he met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The pair met once in Sessions' office and also spoke at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
On Jan. 10, Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions if he was aware of anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign having contact with Russian officials prior to the election.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions said. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."
Sessions later corrected the congressional record to clarify that statement, but he maintained that he and the Russian ambassador did not speak about the Trump campaign. Still, Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
"The reason I believed I should recuse myself is because I was involved in the campaign to a degree I think it would have been perceived is that I wouldn't be objective in participating in an investigation that might involve the campaign," Sessions told Fox News after announcing his recusal.