In late November I wrote a piece about Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. ‘Sessions has a long history of racism and bigotry, and in 1986, it kept him from being appointed to a federal judgeship. But will it keep him from being confirmed by the Senate next January when Trump nominates him for Attorney General of the United States?’ That is the big question, and many are hoping to have an effect on the outcome..
One such group is the NAACP who staged a sit-in at Sessions’ Mobile, Alabama office. Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, said, “Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud.” At the end of the day, Brooks, along with five other NAACP leaders were arrested. The goal of the protest was to ask Sessions to voluntarily withdraw from the nomination. My thoughts are that if the man had the good conscience to withdraw, then he probably would not be the racist that he is. However, I applaud the NAACP leaders who staged the sit in, as they were standing up for justice, fighting against racism, and making their voices heard in much the same way Dr. Martin Luther King was doing fifty years ago.
On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, 600 civil rights marchers weathered attacks by Alabama state troopers and local police. U.S. Rep. John Lewis was among those who were injured. Martin Luther King later returned to complete the Selma-to-Montgomery March, a seminal event in the civil rights movement that is credited with passage of the Voting Rights Act. The same Voting Rights Act that Senator Sessions has called “intrusive legislation.”
Another group that opposes the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General are 1,100 law school professors from across the country. They sent a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11. It reads, in part:
“We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.”
It is signed by 1,100 prominent legal scholars including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California at Irvine School of Law. The law professors wrote that some of them have concerns about Sessions’ prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, his support for building a wall along the nation’s southern border and his “repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community.”
Sessions has opposed nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate the past two decades that has included a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. He’s also fought legal immigration, saying, “Legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States. What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.” These, my friends, are the sentiments of a bigoted, racist, white supremacist.
Despite proven allegations of racism, there are those who defend and support his nomination. George J. Terwilliger III, who served as deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush and has known Sessions for nearly three decades says, “I can say unequivocally there’s not a racist bone in the guy’s body.” How, then, does he explain Sessions’ “joke” about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”?
I direct your attention to an editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post written by three former Justice Department civil rights lawyers: J. Gerald Hebert, director of the Voting Rights and Redistricting Program at the Campaign Legal Center, Joseph D. Rich, co-director of the Fair Housing and Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and William Yeomans, a fellow in law and government at American University’s Washington College of Law. I urge you to read the entire piece, but here is an excerpt:
“Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights. Sessions listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated “personally” as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. Sessions’ attempt to pass himself off as a civil rights hero is particularly brazen given his history. Sessions celebrated when the Supreme Court cut the heart out of the law in 2013, and has opposed all efforts to fix it since. Sessions has not worked to protect civil rights. He worked against civil rights at every turn. Sessions has done many things throughout his 40-year career. Protecting civil rights has not been one of them.”
It seems to me that the only person in Trump’s prospective administration who is a worse racist than Sessions is Steve Bannon, who has called for a society inhabited only by white people of European descent and who has ties to numerous white supremacist and fascist organizations. Confirmation hearings will begin on January 10th as Trump hopes to have all of his choices confirmed on the day of his inauguration. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said, “Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist. If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.” Which, of course, is encouraging, however since there is a republican majority in the Senate, and a confirmation requires only a simple majority, i.e. 51 votes, it may be a futile effort. I would encourage all to write letters to the senators of your state, both Republican and Democrat, and let them know how you feel about Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. The more We The People speak out, the better the chance that somebody will listen.
Trump’s victory demonstrated the staggering power of a white nationalist appeal, and his choices for advisors are nothing less than an extension of that. As Attorney General, Sessions would wield tremendous authority in determining the enforcement of laws. Federal civil rights law is expansive, but it does not enforce itself. One of the attorney general’s primary jobs is to implement and enforce these laws. The Attorney General can bring lawsuits against states that fail to comply with federal civil rights protections and prosecute individuals who violate them. He can threaten to revoke funding for federal programs when states violate their residents’ civil rights. He can protect the rights of racial and religious minorities, immigrants, women, the disabled, and LGBTQ people in housing, employment, voting, and education. He can combat police brutality and investigate abuse of power. He can ensure that every person is afforded their constitutional right to life and liberty without violent interference. Or he can do none of the above. Think about it.