The Department of Justice has issued a refutation of key claims ex-FBI Director James Comey made Thursday during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
DOJ Spokesman Ian Prior gave a statement taking issue with two aspects Comey’s testimony with regard to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. First was Comey’s insistence that he did not know how to evaluate Sessions’s March decision to recuse himself, given his close involvement in the Trump presidential campaign, from any involvement in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. As a result of that recusal Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took charge and, after Comey was fired, made the desicion to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel with full independent control of that investigation.
Comey claimed during his testimony that he was not aware of “any kind of memorandum issued from the Attorney General or the Department of Justice to the FBI outlining the parameters of [the Attorney General’s] recusal.”
In an effort to refute this claim, the DOJ distributed to news outlets an email, sent to Comey and other high-ranking Justice officials on March 2 as Sessions recused himself, detailing the scope of that recusal. The email, from Sessions’s Chief of Staff Jody Hunt, categorically states that:
[T]he Attorney General has decided 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 Attorney General’s recusal is not only with respect to such investigations, if any, but also extends to Department responses to Congressional and media inquiries related to any such investigations.
The statement also took issue with Comey’s claim that the Attorney General remained silent and shrugged off the FBI director’s attempts to establish a more proper and more typical protocol for communicating President Trump after the much-pubicized incident in which Comey has claimed the president asked him to let former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn off the hook. Comey described Session’s response by saying, “I don’t remember real clearly. I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me … his body language gave me the sense, like, ‘What am I going to do?'”
Prior, the DOJ’s Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs, drew contrast to Comey’s admittedly imperfect recollection in his response. “The Attorney General was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House,” he wrote.
Prior also highlighted Comey’s confirmation that constant mainstream media reports that his FBI had asked Sessions and the Department of Justice for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation were inaccurate.