Attorney General Jeff Sessions said former FBI Director James Comey talked "more than he should" have when he spoke to lawmakers in March about an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“I don’t recall how that exactly occurred,” Sessions told Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday. “Mr. Comey talked more than he should.”
In a March hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey confirmed an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Comey said on March 20 he was authorized by the Justice Department to say that such an investigation existed, even though it is longstanding department policy not to confirm or deny ongoing investigations. Sessions noted Tuesday that Comey’s testimony came after he had recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation.
Sessions then agreed with Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, that the July 2016 press conference in which Comey announced he would recommend no criminal charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was an “inappropriate departure” from Justice Department and FBI policies.
“Under the letter that Deputy Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein wrote with regard to Comey,” Sessions said. “I think it would be a terminable offense. It’s not disciplined.”
On May 3, Comey defended his decision to reopen the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails, even if it was one that had an effect on voters in the 2016 presidential election.
“Why didn’t you just do the investigation as you would normally, with no public announcement?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Comey during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“I faced a choice,” Comey responded. “And I’ve lived my entire career by the tradition that if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, whether it’s a dog-catcher election or president of the United States. But I sat there that morning and could not see a door labeled ‘no action here.’ ”
Comey then called the decision “one of the world’s most painful experiences” — but that it was the right one to make.
Less than a week later, Rosenstein wrote a letter recommending the firing of Comey.
“[Comey] was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors,” Rosenstein wrote in the May 9 memo.
Comey was dismissed that same day.