(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Sen. Jeff Sessions that the attorney general of the United States is not the president's "wingman" or lawyer, but has an independent obligation to the Constitution as the nation's chief law enforcement officer.
"Will you be able to stand up and say no to the president of the United States if, in your judgement, the law and your duty demands it?" Grassley asked Trump's nominee for attorney general at the confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
"Mr. Chairman, I understand the importance of your question, I understand the responsibility of the attorney general, and I will do so," Sessions responded. "You simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way and have to be able to say no, both for the country, for the legal system and for the president to avoid situations that are not acceptable.
"I understand that duty, I've observed it through my years here, and I will fulfill that responsibility."
Grassley followed up, asking Sessions what he would do if he disagrees with the president's chosen course of action, but the president pursues it anyway.
"Hopefully, that attorney general would have the confidence of the president and avoid a situation that would be unacceptable," Sessions responded.
"I do believe that if an attorney general is asked to do something that is plainly unlawful, he cannot participate in that...and that person would have to resign ultimately, before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes to be unlawful or unconstitutional."
Sessions said some areas are clear and right, some areas are gray and some areas are unacceptable.
"And a good attorney general needs to know where those lines are to help the president where possible and to resist improper, unacceptable actions."
Sessions, asked about his vision for the Justice Department, said it is to execute the laws passed by the Congress and to follow the Constitution.
"So you can be sure I understand that. We may have had disagreements here about whether a law should be passed, but once passed, I will do my dead-level best to ensure it's properly and fairly enforced."
Sessions also said he would recuse himself from investigations of Hillary Clinton if confirmed as attorney general.