Sessions: Significance of Comey's 'error' on 'Clinton matter' not fully understood

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE during a Senate hearing on Wednesday criticized James Comey, saying the "significance of the error" the former FBI director made on the "Clinton matter" has not been fully understood. 

Sessions made the comments after telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that he cannot discuss the content of the conversations he's had with President Trump. Sessions said the president is entitled to have private, confidential communications with his Cabinet officials.

In opening remarks, committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Blumenthal: ‘Credible case' of obstruction of justice can be made against Trump MORE (D-Calif.) told Sessions they wanted to know why the president fired Comey in the midst of investigations into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race.

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Feinstein told Sessions it's important to understand what role he had in this process, including conversations he had with the president and others in the White House.

Sessions, however, made clear he won't be answering such questions. He said he could not waive executive privilege.

Feinstein pressed him during her line of questioning anyway, asking what his designated role was in Comey's firing. Sessions said he was asked to make a recommendation in writing and submitted it to the president.

"I don't think it's been fully understood the significance of the error Mr. Comey made on the Clinton matter," he said, referring to Comey's role in the investigation of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE's use of a private email server. "For the first time I'm aware of in all of my experience ... a major case in which DOJ prosecutors were involved in an investigation that an investigative agency announced the closure of an investigation."

Sessions noted that Comey said a few weeks later that he would do it again.

"I think that was a basis that called for a fresh start at the FBI," he said.

The annual Department of Justice oversight hearing marked the first time Sessions has appeared before the committee since taking office in February.

--This report was updated at 11:14 a.m.