Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday refused to tell a Senate committee about his conversations with President Trump regarding the firing of James Comey as FBI director, saying that Trump has not granted him permission to recount those discussions.
Speaking during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said that while the White House has not asserted executive privilege to prevent his discussion of the conversations with Trump, he would be unable to reveal details of those talks until the White House waived that privilege.
“Consistent with the longstanding 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,” Sessions said, much to the frustration of Democrats on the oversight panel.
In June, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sessions also refused to discuss his conversations with Trump about Comey’s ouster.
“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,” continued the former Alabama senator.
Sessions’ conversations with Trump about Comey’s firing have become a central focus of an ongoing federal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, in the midst of the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign. The White House initially cited recommendations from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to defend Trump’s decision, but Trump gave interviews soon after saying that he wanted to fire Comey regardless of those recommendations.
Democrats have also raised questions about Sessions’ involvement in the decision to fire Comey because of his decision to recuse himself from Russia-related matters back in March.
While Sessions said Wednesday that he could not discuss his conversations with Trump, he did offer a defense of the decision to fire Comey.
“I don’t think it’s been fully understood the significance of the error Mr. Comey made on the Clinton matter,” Sessions told California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee.
Sessions and Rosenstein have argued that Comey overstepped his authority by giving a public press conference on July 5, 2016 in which he announced that he would not be recommending charges be filed against Clinton.