On Monday, CNN quietly walked back a report from May on security clearance forms submitted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that did not list his prior contacts with Russian officials — a story that CNN framed as possible evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.
CNN’s May report said that Sessions did not report his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year on forms that required him to list “any contact” that he had with any member of a “foreign government” within the previous seven years, as first reported by The Daily Caller.
CNN’s report painted the revelation as possible evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and members of the Russian government. The network stated Sessions was under “withering criticism from Democrats” over not listing his interactions with Kislyak and noted, “Sessions could be a witness before the House and Senate intelligence panels as part of their ongoing probes into potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia.”
Ian Prior, Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice (DOJ), rebuffed CNN’s report at the time, noting that Sessions consulted the proper officials who advised him to fill out the forms the way that he did.
“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,” Prior said.
CNN, however, reported that Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law, claimed that the DOJ was wrong
“My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business,” Zaid said.
On Monday, CNN reported that the DOJ was correct:
A newly released document shows that the FBI told an aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Sessions wasn't required to disclose foreign contacts that occurred in the course of carrying out his government duties when he was a senator.
The FBI email from March bolsters the explanation by the Justice Department for why Sessions didn't disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador in his application for a US security clearance. When the omission of the foreign contacts on the form was first reported by CNN in May, the Justice Department said Sessions' office was advised by the FBI that he didn't need to disclose the meetings.
CNN had to issue a major retraction in another one of their reports on Friday after the network botched the timeline on a story as they tried to nail Donald Trump Jr. for colluding with WikiLeaks — something that did not happen.