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Comey versus Sessions: A side-by-side comparison of their testimony

One of the most anticipated parts of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ appearance Tuesday before a Senate committee was whether his statements would contradict the testimony of fired FBI Director James B. Comey.

Here’s a comparison of each man’s version of events:

Feb. 14 meeting

Both men agreed that Comey was left alone with President Trump after a meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14. Although Comey thought the interaction was inappropriate, Sessions said he did not notice anything unusual about the encounter.

Sessions

  • Sessions was one of the last people in the room with Comey and Trump after a Feb. 14 counter-terrorism meeting ended. He did not recall how that situation occurred and did not see any problem with the dynamic. He left the room.
  • Comey raised concerns about having private conversations with Trump the next day. Sessions agreed with Comey that there are rules regarding private interactions with the president but said there is “not a prohibition.” Comey did not give him any details about what led to this concern.
  • Sessions responded in what he thought was an appropriate way and affirmed to Comey his willingness to deny a private interaction with the president.

Comey

  • Sessions appeared reluctant to leave Comey alone with the president after the meeting, and only left after Trump ordered him to do so, Comey testified. Comey said that during that encounter, Trump pressured him to drop the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
  • He asked Sessions, after the awkward Oval Office meeting, to prevent another private meeting with the president unless Sessions was present.
  • Sessions did not respond to his concerns.
  • Comey did not tell Sessions about the president’s comments about Flynn.

The reason behind Comey’s firing

President Trump abruptly fired Comey from his position as FBI director on May 9. Comey said he understood that the president had the power to fire him without reason, but was confused by the conflicting reasons he later heard. Sessions stood by his statement that Comey was fired because of mismanagement of the department.

Sessions

  • President Trump asked Sessions and other officials to submit a written recommendation for the firing of Comey. He noted a lack of discipline with the FBI director and that a “fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do.”
  • Sessions agreed with Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein that Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe was a primary reason.

Comey

  • President Trump lied when he said the FBI was in disarray and had lost confidence in Comey’s leadership.
  • He had several meetings with the president about his position, during which Trump said he was doing a great job and was “incredibly well-liked.”
  • He was confused by the many reasons the president later gave for his firing and believed the actual reason was rooted in his handling of the Russia probe.

Sessions’ recusal

Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation on March 4. There are questions about what led to this decision and what it indicates about the Russia investigation.

Sessions

  • Sessions said he recused himself after concluding that ethics rules mandated that he do so because of his prominent role in Trump’s presidential campaign, which was part of the probe. He said it was not due to any particular meetings or conduct on his part.
  • He said it was likely that Comey had learned of that decision or came to a similar conclusion based on the department’s ethics rules, which might explain why Comey accurately predicted the decision to recuse.
  • He could not respond to questions about what led Comey to state that his involvement with the investigation would be “problematic.”

Comey

  • He expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia probe at least two weeks before Sessions actually did, leading some to speculate that he might have been aware of something that would have required the attorney general to remove himself from the investigation.
  • He said the FBI was aware of facts that made Sessions’ continued engagement with the investigation “problematic.” He said he could not discuss them in an open setting.

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@LRosenblatt_

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