Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explicitly refused a demand by the Democrats on the committee to either assert executive privilege or divulge his private conversations with President Donald Trump.
The minority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by ranking member Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), told Sessions in a letter last week that they “expected” him to either explicitly invoke executive privilege or start answering questions about confidential communications within the executive branch.
“I have considered this request very respectfully. It is an important matter,” Sessions told the senators in his opening statement, “But, consistent with the long-standing policy and practice of the executive branch I can neither assert executive privilege, nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president.”
The letter and Sessions’s response is a rehash of June’s fight over executive privilege when Sessions refused to either answer questions about White House discussions surrounding dismissal of FBI Director James Comey or invoke the privilege at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Sessions closed his opening statement by giving a general defense of executive privilege. “Under the administration of both parties, it is well established that a president is entitled to have private, confidential communications with his cabinet and officials,” he said, “his secretary of state, his secretary of defense, his secretary of treasury, and certainly his counsel and the attorney general of the United States who provides counsel and that such communications are within the core of executive privilege.”
The attorney general then explicitly rejected the notion put forward in the Democrats’ letter that he has now reached a time limit after which he must invoke the privilege or waive it. “Until such time as the president makes a decision with respect to this privilege,” he told them, “I cannot waive that privilege myself or otherwise compromise his ability to assert it.”