Senators on Tuesday grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a Senate intel committee hearing for refusing to discuss his conversations with President Donald Trump.
“The American people have had it with stonewalling,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “Americans don’t want to hear that the answers to relevant questions are privileged and off limits or that they can’t be provided in public, or that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for witnesses to tell us what they know.”
“General Sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling,” the senator added.
“Sen. Wyden, I am not stonewalling,” Sessions pushed back. “I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.”
Sessions grew visibly angry when the Oregon senator then suggested there may be troublesome factors behind his recusal from the Russian interference investigation.
“Why don’t you tell me?” Sessions said, raising his voice. “There are none Sen. Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me and I don’t appreciate it.”
The testy exchange was quickly followed by intense lines of questioning from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Me.), both of whom described Sessions’ appearance as an attempt to avoid providing substantive answers to the ongoing probe. The senators specifically portrayed Sessions’ continued justification for his silence—executive privilege—as problematic.
“You are obstructing that congressional investigation by not answering these questions,” Henrich said, telling Sessions his silence on the issue “speaks volumes.”
“You can’t have it both ways,” King said, as Sessions struggled to explain how he can invoke executive privilege, even though Trump has yet to assert it.
When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked if there was any written policy to support his continued refusal to answer questions about his private conversations between him and the president, Sessions again appeared to stumble.
“I’m not able to be rushed this fast,” he said. “It makes me nervous.”
Throughout the hearing Tuesday, Sessions repeatedly defended his silence as a part of the Justice Department’s “longstanding policy” to decline commenting on private conversations between him and the president. Sessions started the hearing by defiantly denying any “collusion” between him and Russian officials.