- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the outset of his first congressional oversight hearing that he will “not be able” to discuss the content of his conversations with President Trump — a stance that appeared likely to derail lawmakers’ efforts to learn more about the firing of former FBI Director James B. Comey.

The attorney general demurred when asked at Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee whether Mr. Trump shared the reason he wanted to fire Mr. Comey or if the president mentioned any concerns about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“That calls for a communication with the president that I believe remains confidential,” Mr. Sessions said,

Mr. Sessions referred lawmakers back to the to letters sent by himself and his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which explained they both had doubts about Mr. Comey’s ability to lead the department as a result of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.

“I don’t think it’s been fully understood the significance of the error Mr. Comey made on the Clinton matter,” Mr. Sessions said.

Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat, questioned Mr. Sessions on the scope of his recusal from the ongoing Russia probe, asking why he felt empowered to rely on the Clinton matter as the basis for the firing if he had recused himself from all matters related to the presidential campaign.

“If you were recusing yourself from any investigation or issues that related to Secretary Clinton and the email investigation, why did you write a memo to the president exclusively relying on that matter?” Mr. Coons said.

“The attorney general does not recuse himself from supervision of the FBI, a $7 billion agency he is responsible for, because he may have recused himself of one or more matters the FBI is working on,” Mr. Sessions said, adding that the Clinton case was closed at the time Mr. Comey was fired.

“I’m confidant I was not required to rescue myself on whether or not to keep Director Comey,” Mr. Sessions said.

Throughout Wednesday’ hearing, Mr. Sessions dodged a number of other questions about his interactions with the president and defended his decision not to disclose his conversations with Mr. Trump, saying the president has a right to have private communications with members of his Cabinet.

“Such communications are within the core of executive privilege. Until such time as the president makes a decision with respect to this privilege, I cannot waive that privilege myself or otherwise compromise his ability to assert it,” Mr. Sessions said. “As a result, during today’s hearing and under other circumstances, I will not be able to discuss the content of my conversions with the president.”

Mr. Sessions also later declined to say whether he talked with the Texas attorney general about the state’s plan to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty after the Trump administration said it was phasing out the DACA program.

Responding to questions from Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, the attorney general said any conversations would be “work product” he couldn’t discuss, but he offered to review the information to see whether any of it could be disclosed.

“I think this is just about the moment that Sen. Sessions of Alabama would have blown up,” Mr. Durbin said.

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