WASHINGTON ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a Senate panel Tuesday that he did not remain silent when FBI Director James Comey expressed his discomfort about being left alone with President Donald Trump while overseeing an investigation into ties between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign associates.
“[Comey] didn’t recall this, but I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and the Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House,” Sessions testified.
The attorney general’s assertion, made under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee, contradicts Comey’s testimony before same panel last week. In that testimony, Comey said Trump asked the FBI director to remain behind after a meeting in the Oval Office. Comey acquiesced, but found the situation deeply troubling. When he raised the issue with Sessions, the attorney general was silent, Comey said.
“I told the AG that what had just happened ― him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG remained behind ― was inappropriate and should never happen,” Comey wrote in prepared remarks last week. “He did not reply.”
The Justice Department pushed back immediately on Comey’s statement last week. “The Attorney General was not silent,” a department spokesperson said last week in a statement worded almost identically to Sessions’ testimony on Tuesday.
Sessions told lawmakers Tuesday he agreed that there are rules on private conversations with the president, but not an outright prohibition. He believed Comey could “handle himself well,” he said.