How does Attorney General Jeff Sessions fit into the Comey controversy?

As the nation's top law enforcement officer, the attorney general is supposed to be a firewall between the president and the FBI. So where was Jeff Sessions during the firing of former FBI Director James Comey?

Comey left no doubt he didn't trust Sessions during his testimony Thursday. He told senators he didn't feel comfortable telling Sessions that President Trump had pressured him to stop the FBI's investigation of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons," Comey said. "We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic."

Those reasons are unclear -- but Sessions had failed disclose at least two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. They were reported in the media in early March, and one day later, Sessions did recuse himself.

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Former FBI Director James Comey made it clear in his Congressional testimony that he didn't trust Attorney General Jeff Sessions

CBS News

"I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign," Sessions said at the time. 

Last night, the Justice Department said Sessions' decision was based on his "participation in President Trump's campaign" and it "was for that reason alone"

"When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Mr. Trump told NBC News after he fired Comey. 

Sessions recommended firing Comey last month, and agreed with a memo written by his deputy that criticized Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation. But the president has said he got rid of the FBI director because of the Russia probe.

"How would you characterize Attorney General Sessions adherence to his recusal, in particular with regard to his involvement in your firing?" Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden asked Comey. 

"If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don't know," Comey answered. 

The Justice Department is adamant Sessions recommended Comey be fired for "effectiveness of his leadership," not the Russia investigation. The attorney general is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week.