Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before...
Alex Brandon

AG Jeff Sessions faces new disclosure questions in Russia scandal

We learned in March that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with a Russian official during the presidential campaign, despite saying the opposite while under oath. Much to Donald Trump’s chagrin, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal soon after.

That did not, however, resolve the controversy. Many Democratic members of Congress called on Sessions to resign – some even accused him of perjury – and raised questions that remain unanswered. (Those questions recently took a turn when Sessions played a role in FBI Director James Comey’s firing, a move that seemed to conflict with his stated recusal.)

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/24/17, 9:06 PM ET

Sessions failed to disclose Russian meetings on security forms

Rachel Maddow reports the latest in a string of failures by Donald Trump staffers failing to disclose meetings with Russians, in this case Jeff Sessions leaving off his meetings from his security clearance form.
For his part, the far-right attorney general has tried to steer clear of the controversies, but as this CNN report makes clear, the controversies are following him anyway.
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.
There are two important angles to a story like this one. First is the pattern that’s emerged on Donald Trump’s team: Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions all played leading roles on Trump’s campaign; all met with Russian officials during Russia’s attack on the U.S. election, all were required to disclose those interactions, and all failed to do so.

And at this point, Team Trump hasn’t explained why.

The other angle to consider is specific to Sessions, whose Senate testimony about his meetings with the Russian ambassador was incorrect, whose written Q&A to the Senate Judiciary Committee was also incorrect, and who apparently should’ve been more thorough in his disclosures when applying for a security clearance.

A spokesperson for the attorney general told CNN Sessions was told not to bother listing meetings with foreign officials he participated in in his capacity as a senator, but that excuse may not be 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.

Zaid added that in a similar circumstance he advised a member of Congress to list all foreign contacts – including those made during official US government business.
As we discussed a couple of months ago, Sessions’ meetings themselves are difficult to understand. One of the meetings he had with the Russian ambassador, for example, was held in September – just two months before Election Day – against the backdrop of reports about Russia’s efforts to intervene in the election. We still don’t know why Sessions had this meeting or what was said.

Don’t be surprised if the calls for his ouster start to grow louder.

Jeff Sessions

AG Jeff Sessions faces new disclosure questions in Russia scandal