Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, has accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of refusing to disclose information of vital importance to his committee’s probe into collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign by relying on a loose interpretation of executive privilege.
To wit, following the attorney general's closed door testimony before the House Intel Committee, Schiff told reporters that Sessions declined to answer whether President Trump ever asked him to obstruct the ongoing investigation into Russian inference in the 2016 presidential election, the Hill reported.
"I asked the attorney general whether he was ever instructed by the president to take any action that he believed would hinder the Russia investigation and he declined to answer the question," Rep. Adam Schiff told reporters after the closed-door meeting concluded.
"If the president did not instruct him to take any action that he believed would hinder the Russia investigation, he should say so. If the president did instruct him to hinder the investigation in any way, in my view, that would be a potentially criminal act and certainly not covered by any privilege," the California lawmaker continued.
Unsurprisingly, a spokeswoman for Sessions pointed out that the attorney general has already made it clear that he would refuse to divulge the details of any of his conversations with President Trump, a position he has adhered to since becoming attorney general in February.
However, Schiff told reporters that he believes Sessions’s reasoning for not answering the question is suspect, calling the attorney general’s defense a “weak argument.”
“That, under any conceivable idea, is not privileged, so I think that is even a weaker argument to make than with respect to a particular conversation that he may have had with the president,” he added.
Schiff opined that the Republican lawmakers on the committee decided “in a unilateral fashion” against releasing the AG’s testimony, pointing to previous agency heads who have openly appeared before the panel.
"The Congress has the need to know and so do the American people," Schiff said, adding that he feels the committee should "compel" Sessions to answer the questions he did not answer during the meeting.
During Sessions’ testimony, Schiff said the panel “extensively” covered the interactions he had with former Trump campaign officials like Carter Page and the interactions that he had with George Papadopoulos, adding “that was certainly a big focus of our interview today.”
Sessions's appearance on Thursday comes as the panel continues to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign staff. Over the next week, the committee will also be interviewing Erik Prince, former CEO of Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVoes, and, later, Donald Trump Jr.
The meeting comes two weeks after Sessions, during a public appearance before the Judiciary Committee, clarified that he didn’t remember Papadopoulos raising the possibility of setting up a meeting between Trump and the Russians. He was also grilled by a Republican lawmaker about why he didn’t appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Clintons.
Of course, even former FBI Director James Comey – whose firing has been cited by Democrats as an example of Trump possibly trying to obstruct an FBI investigation – has said he didn’t feel Trump’s behavior in firing him could be considered obstruction of justice. And given reports that Trump still resents Sessions for recusing himself from the DOJ’s Russia investigation, thereby handing the reins to Bob Mueller, it seems like Schiff is senselessly seizing on another opportunity to attack the Trump administration.