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

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand 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 GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles 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.

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 ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map 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.