Justice Dept. defends Sessions after Comey hearing

Justice Dept. defends Sessions after Comey hearing
© Greg Nash

The Justice Department on Thursday defended Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump says 'people will not stand' for Mueller report Jeff Sessions returns to Justice Department to retrieve Cabinet chair Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March MORE after former FBI Director James Comey testified before lawmakers that members of the FBI expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

“Shortly after being sworn in Attorney General Sessions began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement.

“Given Attorney General Sessions’ participation in President Trump’s campaign, it was for that reason, and that reason alone, the Attorney General made the decision on March 2, 2017 to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States," the spokesman added.

Prior added that Sessions “had not been briefed on or participated in any investigation within the scope of his recusal” after his initial meeting with ethics officials.

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Comey earlier Thursday testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that members of the FBI expected Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

“Our judgment was that he was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself,” Comey told lawmakers during the public hearing.

“We were also aware of facts I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued involvement in a Russia investigation problematic," Comey said.

The FBI director further testified before lawmakers on sensitive topics in a closed session Thursday afternoon, meaning it took place behind closed doors.

Sessions recused himself in early March from any probe related to the 2016 race, including the federal probe into any ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.

“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” he said of ethics officials during a press conference.

Sessions’ announcement followed reports that he twice met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign and did not disclose the encounters during his confirmation hearing in January.