Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears before Senate Judiciary Committee
The oversight hearing comes after a tumultuous summer for Sessions, during which he was publicly derided by the President over his recusal from the Russian meddling investigation, served as the face of the administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as his department suffered setbacks in the courts in trying to implement key pieces of the President’s agenda, a fresh one coming Tuesday when a federal court blocked the third travel ban from going into effect.
Democrats have also warned Sessions they will ask him about conversations he’s had with President Donald Trump, a topic Sessions dodged when testifying in June before the intelligence committee citing concerns about executive privilege.
Wednesday’s hearing will be the Judiciary committee’s first turn to ask questions of Sessions since his confirmation hearing, a sore subject for committee Democrats who have pushed for a chance to question the attorney general on a range of issues, including the Russia investigation and the extent of his prior contacts with Russian officials that led to his recusal from the investigation.
The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked Chairman Chuck Grassley to schedule a hearing with Sessions in July.
At a hearing earlier this month, an agitated Sen. Patrick Leahy, who used to chair the committee, chastised Sessions while questioning a Justice Department official about the DACA program that Trump ended under Sessions’ recommendation.
“He’s taken longer than any attorney general since I’ve been here, but I’ve only been here 42 years,” Leahy cracked when told he could ask Sessions his questions directly later in the month.
After confirming with Grassley the date of the hearing, Leahy dryly said he’d attend: “I’ll drop by,” he said.
A letter led by Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and signed by other committee Democrats warned Sessions that his excuse in June — that he hadn’t yet had time to discuss with the White House what he could reveal about his conversations with the President — won’t work this time.
“With respect to potential assertions of executive privilege on behalf of the President, we wish to put you on notice that any reasonable period of abeyance on many of the issues about which you will be asked has long elapsed,” the senators wrote.
The senators in the letter left open the option for Sessions to provide the committee “with a list of issues over which the privilege has affirmatively been asserted” prior to the hearing.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. ET.