Grassley: Sessions should ‘stay out of’ criminal justice debate after I helped him keep his job

Grassley: Sessions should ‘stay out of’ criminal justice debate after I helped him keep his job
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley raises concerns about objectivity of report critical of GOP tax law's effects Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward MORE (R-Iowa) warned Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time MORE on Thursday to stay out of negotiations on criminal justice reform legislation because he helped stop President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE from firing him.

“With all that I have done to help Sessions, to keep the president from firing him, I think Sessions ought to stay out of it," Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters.

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Asked how he helped Sessions, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, Grassley noted that in June 2017 "the suggestion [of firing Sessions] was coming and I told the White House I don't have time to have a hearing on a new attorney general."

Grassley tweeted in July 2017 that his committee would not hold a hearing for a new attorney general by the end of the year if Trump fired Sessions.

The new comments arrive after Grassley and a group of GOP senators went to the White House on Wednesday to discuss criminal justice reform legislation.

Although Grassley and Sessions were Senate colleagues for decades, they have deeply divergent views when it comes to criminal justice legislation.

Grassley has spearheaded legislation that would pair prison reform with some changes to mandatory minimum sentencing. Sessions, when he was a member of the chamber, was one of the most vocal critics of the bill. 

Grassley told reporters in late June that he had spoken to Sessions about the issues last year but the two had not been able to come to an agreement.

"I thought that I determined an opening. Well, that opening hasn't materialized and obviously I didn't make an impact," Grassley said at the time. "But that invitation still stands."