Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday criticized “judicial activism” and condemned attempts to depose or question senior executive branch officials, including President Donald Trump.
“Simply put, discovery against the President of the United States should not be treated lightly. The man is busy, in case you’d like to know,” Sessions said while speaking to the Heritage Foundation.
Sessions added that preparing for a deposition is “a monumental disruption.”
“Subjecting the executive branch to this kind of discovery is unacceptable,” he said.
His comments also addressed a number of upcoming cases and decisions, including a challenge to the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Last week, the Trump administration asked the US Supreme Court to block Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from having to be deposed on the matter.
However, days after the administration filed its request with the court, new questions arose about previous comments Ross had made to Congress about the controversial census question.
A Justice Department filing revealed that Steve Bannon contacted Ross in the spring of 2017 – when Bannon was a senior Trump adviser – asking him to speak with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach about including a citizenship question.
Ross previously denied to Congress that anyone from the White House had discussed adding that type of question to the census with him, later adding that it was an initiative from the Justice Department.
CNN previously reported that a Commerce Department spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Ross’ comments before Congress were not misleading.
The spokesman said that the Justice Department “response supplements the record but does not change the secretary’s story, it only adds to it.”
Directly addressing the census case during his remarks on Monday, Sessions criticized “an increasing number of judges” who he said “view themselves as something akin to roving inspectors general for the entire Executive Branch.”
“For example, right now we are litigating one case where the district court has authorized a deposition of the Secretary of Commerce about the decision to reinstate a question on the Census. The court believes this is proper because it wants to probe the Secretary’s motives,” he said.
Sessions went on to defend the census question, noting that it “has appeared in one form or another on the census for over a hundred years.”
“The words on the page don’t have a motive; they are either permitted or they are not. But the judge has decided to hold a trial over the inner-workings of a Cabinet Secretary’s mind.”
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue, Gregory Wallace and Paul LeBlanc contribute to this report.