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US attorney general failed to report Russia meetings on security form
[WASHINGTON] US Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to report meetings last year with Russia's US ambassador on his security clearance application, according to portions of the application released under court order Thursday.
The heavily redacted pages of the SF-86 security clearance form required for many senior government positions show Mr Sessions answered "no" to the question of whether, over the past seven years, he had contact with any foreign government, its offices or officials inside or outside the United States.
An ethics watchdog group close to Democrats, American Oversight, sued in April to get the document amid allegations that Sessions had unreported meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during last year's election campaign.
Those meetings could figure into a sprawling investigation into whether the campaign of President Donald Trump colluded with Moscow's meddling in the US election last year.
In his January confirmation hearing to lead the Justice Department, the former Republican senator, 70, failed to disclose meetings he held with Russian officials.
In March, media reports showed that in fact he had met Mr Kislyak at least twice during the campaign.
Mr Sessions downplayed the issue as a minor mistake and said the meetings were insignificant.
However, the issue forced his recusal from any involvement in the Justice Department's investigation of possible collusion between the campaign and Russia, which is now in the hands of an independent prosecutor.
The department defended Mr Sessions' reporting on the form, saying he had been advised to omit meetings he had in his role as a senator.
"As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds - if not thousands - of foreign dignitaries and their staff," 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."