At the recent testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he frequently stated that that he would not answer questions that related to private conversations that he had had with President Trump. This frustrated some of the members of the committee, but Sessions refused to waiver from his position.
Sessions claimed to be protecting the president’s right to executive privilege. Several legal experts have weighed in on if the attorney general was correct in his use of the constitutional protection or not.
The primary platform of those experts who believe that Attorney General Sessions was not acting according to the constitution, stated that executive privilege can only be invoked by the president. When Sessions testified, the president had not yet invoked executive privilege to his conversations with the attorney general.
Because this particular hearing was planned in advance, the president had the opportunity to instruct Sessions not to answer any questions about their conversations and base his request on executive privilege. To the best of our knowledge, that is not what happened.
If the Senate committee wants to force Sessions to answer questions, they would have to vote to cite the attorney general of contempt, and he would have to be tried in a court. It is pretty clear that no one in the Senate had reached that point to get answers to their questions about private conversations with President Trump.
Supporting Sessions, one legal expert stated that, in the past, other executive branch officials have failed to give information on items that they perceived the president may want to execute privilege in the future. The term “executive privilege” was first used under President Eisenhower, but its use goes all the way back to George Washington.