Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, did what Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Director of the NSA Adm. Michael S. Rogers did when they testified a few days ago: he refused to answer the Committee’s questions about his discussions with President Trump, and he expressly refused to assert executive privilege. He claimed there was a Department of Justice policy that required him to protect the confidentiality of those discussions, but apparently it’s not written down, and if you take a look at the clip beginning at about 1:41:45 in this hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and watch for a minute, you’ll see what then-Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, in the minority, thought about asking the Attorney General about conversations with the President.
The refusal of senior administration witnesses to answer questions about non-privileged conversations with the President is vexing and absurd. Their refusal appears to be strategic: by refusing to assert a privilege, the witnesses can avoid a test of the claim of privilege in court. And since the Republicans control the Senate, the administration seems to think that the Senate will not take any steps to compel the testimony.1
So I’ve made two decisions. First, whenever a senior official takes this position in testimony, I will write a post calling on that official to resign. I mean, it’s outrageous to refuse to answer Congress’s questions because you prefer not to. Who are these witnesses, Bartleby the Scrivener? Attorney General Sessions, you should resign.
Second, I am bringing back and repurposing an image I often used in my coverage of the Lago Agrio case. It’s a picture of a bust of Marcus Junius Brutus. In my Lago Agrio posts, I used this image to note each time a new person, under pressure from Chevron, betrayed Steven Donziger, like so: “Et tu,
Calmbacher Reyes the Huaorani people Burford Capital Stratus Consulting Beltman Maest Bogart Patton Boggs DeLeon H5 Pablo Fajardo?” I’m bringing this image back because Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is in the news, and because I want to mock the witnesses who take this outrageous position. If I could find a good image of Bartleby the Scrivener I might decide to use that instead.