Live Briefing: Sessions Is Likely to Face Questions That He Has Refused to Answer

By on Oct 18, 2017

“With respect to potential assertions of executive privilege on behalf of the president, we wish to put you on notice that any reasonable period of abeyance on many of the issues about which you will be asked has long elapsed,” they wrote.

Lawmakers want to know more about Sessions’s relationship with Trump

Mr. Sessions may also be asked about his own relationship with the president.

For a time, Mr. Trump regularly denigrated Mr. Sessions in an apparent effort to get him to step aside so he could appoint a new attorney general who would not be recused from matters related to the 2016 election and could seize control of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Democrats will seek assurances that Mr. Sessions is providing resources and protection for Mr. Mueller to continue his work undisturbed.


Demonstrators in New York last month protesting the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Yana Paskova for The New York Times

For his part, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s Republican chairman, said he was resigned to Democrats’ efforts to cover a lot of old ground.

“I don’t know about the Republican side, but I expect on the Democrats’ side, you’re going to have a lot of repetitive questions that were asked in the Intel Committee,” he said.

The Justice Department has sharply changed course on civil rights enforcement

Mr. Sessions is also likely to face questions, at least from Democrats, about how the federal government on his watch has curtailed the Obama-era approach to enforcing antidiscrimination laws, especially protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

On Oct. 6, for example, Mr. Sessions issued sweeping guidance to federal agencies and prosecutors, instructing them to take the position in court that people and organizations may claim broad exemptions from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections. Critics said the guidance would open the door to justifying a wide range of acts of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A day earlier, the Justice Department reversed the federal government’s stance on whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, provides protections for transgender people. Mr. Sessions issued a memo to the department instructing officials to take the position in court that the act does not bar acts of workplace bias against people based on their gender identity.

In July, the Justice Department, without being asked for its opinion, filed a brief before an appellate court in a private workplace discrimination lawsuit, taking the position that the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex bias does not cover sexual orientation. By contrast, the Obama-era department tried to avoid taking a position on that question, while welcoming the prospect that the law might continue to evolve in that area.

And taken a hard-line approach to immigration

Mr. Sessions has likewise been the face of the administration’s tough posture toward immigration enforcement, most notably its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program permitted people who grew up in the United States after being brought illegally to the country as children to stay and lawfully work.

In announcing its end, Mr. Sessions argued the program had harmed millions of American citizens.

Now, its fate is in the lap of Congress, which has until March to come up with a solution for those who had been protected by the program, who are sometimes called Dreamers. In exchange, the administration has issued a set of hard-line immigration demands that it wants to be a part of any legislative deal, including the construction of a border wall, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents and tougher asylum laws.

“We’ll start with DACA and Dreamers and then see where we go,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said ahead of the hearing with Mr. Sessions, himself a former member of the committee as a senator from Alabama. “We see Jeff so seldom, we’ve got to catch up.”

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