House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff said he was concerned over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision not to answer if President Trump has ever directed him to “hinder” the Russia investigation.
“I asked the attorney general whether he was ever instructed to take any action he [thought] would hinder the Russia investigation,” the California Democrat told reporters following a closed door committee meeting with Sessions. “And he declined to answer the question.”
Schiff noted that though Sessions is able to claim executive privilege over conversations with the president, there is no “privilege basis” to decline to answer such a question. Schiff said Sessions also did not say he was ever instructed by Trump to claim executive privilege.
“If the president did not instruct to take an action, 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,” Schiff said, calling the refusal to answer the question “disturbing.”
Sessions met with lawmakers for roughly five hours on Thursday. The House Intelligence Committee is currently conducting an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the same, which paved the way for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Schiff declined to say if Sessions disclosed any new “additional” Russia contacts — the reason why the attorney general had to recuse himself — but that lawmakers asked him “extensively” about his interactions with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
In repsonse, a Justice Department spokesperson said Sessions has said before lawmakers he won’t talk about his communications with Trump, and added “he’s never been directed to do anything illegal or improper” — something the attorney general has also said before.