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Attorney General Jeff Sessions reads from a statute about his recusal while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about his role in the firing of James Comey, his Russian contacts during the campaign and his decision to recuse from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sessions' testimony pretty much puts talk of his resignation to rest -- for now


Sessions' testimony pretty much puts talk of his resignation to rest -- for now

WATCH | Anyone expecting Sessions' testimony to blow open the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia was left disappointed. The Attorney General out-lawyered lawmakers and demonstrated his loyalty to the president by refusing to answer some key questions. 

Refusing to answer certain questions

Sessions frustrated some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and many Americans on Tuesday by refusing to answer any questions about private conversations he had with the President about anything. 

"I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications I have with the president," Sessions said. He told Senators he could not answer the questions without giving the president a chance to review them first. 

Although he refused to answer questions about his talks with Trump pertaining to the Russia investigation, the firing of FBI director James Comey and basically anything else, he did not claim executive privilege. 

Although Sessions said Trump had not claimed executive privilege he said by refusing to divulge on their private conversations "I am protecting the right of the president to exert it if he chooses." 

What is executive privilege? 

It's a very hazy concept. Basically the president and members of the executive branch can withhold certain information from Congress and the courts by claiming executive privilege. There's a lot of argument over where executive privilege comes from since it's not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. 

Presidents have argued that it's part of the Constitution's separation of powers and the Supreme Court has ruled that communications within a president's administration are protected.

Executive privilege has been used by Presidents as far back as George Washington, who in 1792 was compelled to hand over information regarding a failed expedition against Native Americans. 

Nixon famously claimed executive privilege in the Watergate investigation. The Supreme Court ruled that executive privilege is sometimes necessary and constitutional, but not an absolute power. Eventually, Nixon was forced to turn over the Watergate tapes that led to his resignation. 

President Obama used executive privilege to keep his deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes from testifying publicly about the Iran nuclear deal and to withhold records on the Fast and Furious gun walking operation, although a federal judge eventually compelled him to turn those over. 

In Sessions case, he may have been thinking of another kind of privilege to justify his refusal to divulge details of his private conversations with the president -- attorney-client privilege. 

Sessions demonstrated his loyalty 

Sessions testimony came just one week after The Washington Post reported that the Attorney General had offered Trump his resignation, after their relationship became tenuous. 

The report said Sessions offered to leave office after Trump became upset over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. 

His refusal to answer some key questions demonstrates his loyalty to Trump, despite the rumors of trouble.

"Trump knows there’s no more loyal guy," said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Virginia). 

"I think he’s ticked off that sessions kind of played by the rules and then some. He recused himself when he didn’t technically, probably have to because there’s nothing there," Brat added. 

But Democrats were troubled by Sessions' loyalty. 

Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico accused Sessions of impeding the investigation.

"You get a sense that this is really about some sort of very far fetched theory that the responsibility runs primarily to the president rather than to the American people," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). 

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