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

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status White House officials voted by show of hands on 2018 family separations: report 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 GrassleySenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Senators offer disaster tax relief bill Trump spikes political football with return of Big Ten season MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators offer disaster tax relief bill Democrats back away from quick reversal of Trump tax cuts Congress must save the Postal Service from collapse — our economy depends on it 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden 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.