AG Sessions avoids talks of FBI director during opioid summit in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sidestepped talk about the open FBI director's post in an appearance Thursday, May 11th in West Virginia at a conference on stopping drug addiction.

Sessions spoke at the University of Charleston at a Drug Enforcement Administration meeting on heroin and opioid addiction. It was his first public appearance since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.

University spokesman Dave Traube initially said a news conference would be held after Sessions' speech. But U.S. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said Wednesday night that Sessions would not be available to reporters and didn't give a reason. Sessions quickly left the auditorium after his speech.

"On Wednesday evening, the AG's team informed us that they would be not holding a press conference following his opening remarks," Traube said Thursday in an email. "They said they would be contacting the media about the change in plans and an email communication went out from them to some media members that had RSVP'd for the event."

In an email, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores denied a news conference had been previously scheduled.

"Our media advisory never listed one," she said.

But Traube said Thursday the university had been "instructed to set a room up for one."

The day before Comey's firing, President Trump advisers said Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with the president.

Sessions' talk Thursday focused on helping cities and regions battle the prescription drug abuse epidemic and violent crime associated with it.

West Virginia led the nation with 41.5 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015, and the number of such deaths rose nearly 18 percent last year to 864 people.

Thursday's event was co-sponsored by the DEA and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, which is part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the lead White House office shaping policy on the nation's opioid crisis.

Parts of West Virginia are in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, which makes federal resources available to local and state police that face growing illicit drug markets. It was established through the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1988.

A President Trump administration proposal would slash funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 94 percent.