Sessions Declines to Testify Before Oversight Committee
Will Not Send Other DOJ Officials or Answer Any Written Questions
The Department of Justice has informed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not testify at today’s hearing on the status of documents being withheld by the Department relating to the Committee’s long-running investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. The Department also informed the Committee that Sessions will not send any other Department officials to testify in his place and will not answer any written questions regarding whether the Trump Administration is taking a different position than the Obama Administration with respect to asserting the “deliberative process” privilege.
On May 30, 2017, Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings sent a letter asking Mr. Sessions — now that he is Attorney General — whether he plans to reverse or otherwise alter the assertion of privilege made by the Department during the previous Administration over documents sought by the Committee as part of its investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.
The Ranking Member’s letter asked Sessions: “Under your leadership, has the Department of Justice changed its position with respect to withholding documents responsive to the Committee’s January 3, 2017, subpoena? If so, please provide an explanation of the change, when it was made, and which previous assertions are now being reversed. Please also provide any responsive documents that you are no longer withholding, if any.”
The letter also asked: “Does the Department of Justice intend to provide any additional documents responsive to the Committee’s January 3, 2017, subpoena? If not, please explain the basis for withholding those documents.”
Based on a request from Ranking Member Cummings to understand whether the Department is changing its policies with respect to withholding documents from Congress, Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter on June 2, 2017, inviting Sessions or his designee to testify at today’s hearing to answer questions about the status of documents relating to the Committee’s investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.
On June 5, 2017, the Department of Justice responded to these requests by sending a letter declining to provide any witness for today’s hearing or any answers to the questions relating to the Department’s position on these documents.
Instead, the Department’s letter, which was sent by the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, cited ongoing litigation brought by Chairman Chaffetz and suggested that the Department would not answer any questions from other Committee Members while it is engaged in “settlement discussions” with the Chairman. The letter stated: “Under these circumstances, we are not in a position to provide additional information in response to your questions, nor to have a Department witness testify about them at a congressional hearing.”