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DOJ turnover of Sessions background check form raises questions

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The US Justice Department is withholding parts Attorney General Jeff Sessions's security clearance form, probably to avoid showing he swore to the truth of the disclosures even though they were later shown to be false, the head of a Washington watchdog group said after a court hearing.

[WASHINGTON] The US Justice Department is withholding parts Attorney General Jeff Sessions's security clearance form, probably to avoid showing he swore to the truth of the disclosures even though they were later shown to be false, the head of a Washington watchdog group said after a court hearing.

The Justice Department responded a day late to a court order to produce the information Thursday with a single page showing that Mr Sessions had answered "No" to the question of whether he or his immediate family met with foreign government representatives in the past seven years. Mr Sessions later admitted he spoke with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak at least twice in 2016.

The disclosure didn't include Mr Sessions's name, signature and the date, which had been requested by American Oversight, the watchdog group that sued in April to get the information.

American Oversight attorney Cerissa Cafasso told the judge the limited disclosure suggested the influence of "higher-ups" in the government. Outside the courtroom, the group's executive director Austin Evers, was more blunt, accusing the Justice Department of holding back the signature page because it would have shown the attorney general swore under oath that the information was true.

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In court Thursday, Justice Department attorney Anjali Motgi said Sessions's name and signature page weren't produced due to a conflicting interpretation of what American Oversight had asked for and that she would take the issue up with her department.

Ms Motgi also said a search for Federal Bureau of Investigation interview notes in which Sessions's Russia contacts were discussed turned up nothing.

Sessions in March disclosed he'd twice met with Mr Kislyak last year while still a US Senator from Alabama. He neglected to tell that to Congress during his confirmation hearing.

The belated revelation compelled Mr Sessions to recuse himself from a Justice Department probe of President Donald Trump's campaign's contacts with Russia and whether they colluded to interfere with the election.

A follow-up hearing was scheduled for Aug 14.

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