After Donald Trump asked James Comey to end a federal investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, then-FBI Directory Comey told Attorney General Jeff Sessions he did not want to be left alone with the president, the New York Times reports.
Current and former law enforcement officials told the Times, Comey spoke directly with Sessions about the inappropriate nature of his conversation with Trump, but did not go into specifics about Trump's request. According to officials, Comey was worried Trump would try to undermine the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between the president's 2016 campaign and Russian operatives trying to influence the U.S. election.
“You have the president of the United States talking to the director of the FBI, not just about any criminal investigation, but one involving his presidential campaign,” former Justice Department official Matthew Axelrod, who served during Barack Obama's administration, told the Times. “That is such a sharp departure from all the past traditions and rules of the road.”
Comey is set to testify Thursday in a highly-anticipated open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's expected to speak to the president's request for him to end the Flynn investigation without delving into the specifics of the FBI's investigation.
“The attorney general doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to respond to media inquiries on matters that may be related to ongoing investigations,” Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior told the Times.
Trump has reportedly "grown sour" on Sessions since the attorney general recused himself from the Russia probe. According to multiple reports, the president blames Comey for the appointment of special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and has privately lashed out at Sessions for that decision. Publicly, the president on Monday targeted Sessions' Department of Justice in a series of tweets about his ill-fated travel ban.
At Tuesday's daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump has confidence in the attorney general. The New York Times later reported the Sessions offered his resignation amid rising tension with the president.