Democratic lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ refusal to discuss conversations he’s had with President Trump or other top White House officials about the Justice Department’s probe of Russian election meddling and other matters.
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But a top Democrat seemed to acknowledge today the political reality means there’s little way to force answers out of Sessions.
“We have the power to compel the attorney general to answer those questions, but that requires [Republican] agreement,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said today after Sessions testified to the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors.
For months, Schiff and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill have unsuccessfully pressed Sessions to describe his talks with Trump related to the federal probes looking at whether Trump or his associates may have helped Russia meddle in last year’s presidential election.
During today’s private testimony, Schiff asked Sessions whether Trump ever instructed him to block the federal probes, but the attorney general wouldn’t answer, according to Schiff.
“There is no privilege basis to decline to answer a question like that,” Schiff told reporters today. “If the president did not ask him to take any action that would hinder the investigation, he would say so. If the president did instruct him to hinder the investigation in any way, in my view that would potentially be a criminal act and certainly not covered by any privilege.”
A Republican source said Sessions did tell the House panel today that, generally speaking, he has never been directed to do anything improper or illegal. The Republican source insisted Sessions was “forthcoming” with lawmakers today.
Nevertheless, Sessions has made clear that – at least for now – executive privilege is not the basis for his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with senior White House officials.
“I’m not claiming executive privilege,” Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago. “I’m following the long-established policies of the Department of Justice.” He told a Senate panel over the summer that he was “protecting the president’s constitutional right by not giving [executive privilege] away before he has a chance to view it and weigh it.”
In the hearing two…