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 GrassleySenate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill Five takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (R-Iowa) warned Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPresidential historian: Trump's actions may be 'definition of treason' if he knew about Russian interference efforts Trump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report Trump: Sessions 'should be ashamed of himself' for allowing Russia probe to proceed MORE on Thursday to stay out of negotiations on criminal justice reform legislation because he helped stop President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate 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."