Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that former FBI Director James Comey had no power or justification to discuss the conclusions of an FBI investigation in an open hearing earlier this year.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) asked Sessions about Comey's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20, when he announced that the FBI was investigating President Donald Trump's campaign for possibly colluding with Russia.
"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," Comey testified at the time.
DeSantis asked Sessions why Comey was allowed to publicly confirm facts about the Russia investigation when the previous Department of Justice policy was not to do so.
"Why was Comey allowed to confirm that investigation on March 20, which invited all kinds of irresponsible speculation?" DeSantis asked. "You were recused, somebody in the department authorized him to do that. Why did they break with the policy?"
Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation earlier this year, responded that he does not recall "how that exactly occurred," but did say that Comey said too much.
"Mr. Comey talked more than he should," Sessions said. "He had no power, right, or justification in announcing the conclusion of a criminal investigation."
At the time of Comey's testimony, the counterintelligence investigation branching out into the Trump campaign was a major development. Two months later, Trump fired Comey, and soon after Robert Mueller was appointed to lead a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.