Senate judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley won’t force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to detail his private conversations with the President, a committee spokesman said Friday.
The news comes two days after Sessions cited Trump’s authority to claim executive privilege in refusing to answer questions about FBI Director James Comey’s firing and the special counsel Russia investigation in testimony before the committee.
“No president is likely to invoke executive privilege until forced to do so,” committee spokesman Taylor Foy wrote over email. “In this case, it’s premature and probably not a legitimate use of committee time and resources to force the issue.”
Committee Democrats had warned Sessions before his Wednesday appearance that they expected him to answer their questions, and some grew frustrated with claims that silence was “the proper course for the attorney general at this time.”
“You think that. I don’t,” Sen. Patrick Leahy responded in one instance.
In other exchanges, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse cast doubt on Sessions’ reliance on a 1982 memo outlining executive privilege protocol, and asked Grassley to “pursue” the issue as chairman.
In the hearing, Grassley defended Sessions’ rebuffs, pointing to the testimony of former President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder in the wake of the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal.
“I’ve had the same problem with previous attorneys general and got answers similar to what you’re giving,” Grassley said. “When Attorney General Holder was in that chair I asked him questions about why he would not give us information about the departments’ false statements that were made to this committee about gun walking in Fast and Furious. The information I was asking for had nothing to do with communications with the President and did not implicate any constitutional privilege. Still he wouldn’t answer.”
Foy said the assertions made by Sessions appeared closer to a legitimate claim of executive privilege than did Holder’s.
“Unlike Attorney General Holder during the Fast and Furious investigation, this case involves communications between the President and a close adviser, which seems on its face to meet the basic elements of executive privilege, and thus would be a challenge for congress to overcome,” Foy said.