Supporters praise Sessions’ record, opponents bash him as racist during second day of confirmation hearings
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The second day of the Sen. Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing for Attorney General saw some witnesses testify that the Alabama Republican is completely unfit and other witnesses testify that he is a perfect candidate for the Trump administration post.
President-elect Donald Trump's pick has become the most controversial of his proposed cabinet, with Democrats and fellow liberals organizing a "Stop Sessions!" campaign across the country to pressure senators on the Judiciary Committee into either denying Sessions or delaying a vote.
On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, claimed “400 different civil rights organizations, 1,400 law professors, 1,000 law students, a broad task force of organizations that oppose domestic violence, 70 reproductive health organizations and many, many others” sent letters against Sessions to the committee.
The charge of racism was a consistent thread throughout the day, with civil rights leaders saying Sessions would not fight for equal justice for all. Countering those accusations were black leaders who worked closely with Sessions, testifying that the former Alabama Attorney General "doesn't have a racist bone in his body."
African-American leaders who have worked personally with Sessions vouched for his character. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Willie Huntley said he believes Sessions will act "even handedly, equally and with justice for all.” Huntley recalled that while he worked under Sessions in the U.S. attorney’s office, "He provided a great deal of support in everything that I did.”
Former U.S. Marshal Jesse Seroyer, who worked as an investigator for Sessions in the U.S. attorney's office, characterized him as "a decent and honest and respectful man" who "believes in law and order for all the people." Seroyer emphasized that it is "without any question" that Sessions is "fit to serve" as U.S. Attorney General.
Attorney William Smith, former chief counsel to Sessions on the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, assured the committee that "After 20 years of knowing Sen. Sessions, I have not seen the slightest evidence of racism, because it does not exist."
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Sessions is "principled, intelligent, thorough, (and) modest."
Larry Thompson, a black former deputy U.S. attorney general who has known Sessions for 30 years, says the nominee holds a "strong record of bipartisan accomplishment" regarding issues within an Attorney General's purview.
Attorney Peter N. Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, took on the charge of racism Sessions endured in a 1986 judicial confirmation hearing that he lost. Sessions was criticized for prosecuting alleged voter fraud by "the Marion Three," who were black. Kirsanow said it was not a case of racial bias.
"If he had failed to prosecute the Perry County case, that would have been an extraordinary dereliction of duty," Kirsanow explained, because there was "copious evidence" against the defendants, despite the fact that in the end they were acquitted.
Kirsanow added that Sessions has sponsored bills advancing civil rights, and concluded that he would make an "outstanding" attorney general.
Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury said the nominee was "a true partner of law enforcement." Jayann Sepich praised Sessions for sponsoring a bill calling for DNA to be collected at the time of an arrest. Sepich's daughter was the victim of a brutal murder.
Witnesses against Sessions included NAACP President Cornell Brooks, who last week staged an illegal sit-in "Occupy" protest, taking over Sessions' Mobile, Alabama, office until police arrested him and his NAACP cohorts.
Brooks claimed that Sessions' record shows "disregard, disrespect, and even disdain for the civil and human rights of racial and ethnic minorities, women, the disabled, and others who suffer from discrimination in this country.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, confronted Brooks, directly challenging the NAACP's political bias.
Graham asked the NAACP president what Sessions' score was on his organization's legislative tally of allies and enemies. When Brooks answered that Sessions scored very low, Graham countered with the fact that every Republican on the committee got a failing grade and every Democrat but one got a 100 percent perfect score.
Graham commented to Brooks, “I hope that doesn’t make all (Republicans) racist and all (Democrats) perfect on the issue.”
Graham followed up his commentary by asking Brooks if he could name one Republican whom he thought would make a good Attorney General.
Another “against” witness, ACLU Legal Director David Cole, accused Sessions of only going after black voter fraud, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, said that accusation is unfair because the case of the Marion Three was in response black voters' complaints of fraud.
After a lunch recess, the final witnesses called were three black politicians: Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ; Rep. John Lewis, D-GA; and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-LA, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Booker became the first serving senator to ever testify against another currently serving senator up for a cabinet post. Booker claimed that Sessions' history “demonstrated a hostility toward (civil rights) convictions.”
Booker's testimony against his peer resulted in other senators complaining that Booker is grandstanding in anticipation of a presidential bid in 2020. "I’m very disappointed that Senator Booker has chosen to start his 2020 presidential campaign by testifying against Senator Sessions," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AK, posted on Facebook.
"This disgraceful breach of custom is especially surprising since Senator Booker just last year said he was 'honored to have partnered with Senator Sessions' on a resolution honoring civil-rights marchers," Sen. Cotton continued on Facebook. "Senator Sessions wants to keep criminals behind bars, drugs off our streets, and amnesty from becoming law. (Sen. Booker is) welcome to oppose these common-sense policies and vote against Senator Sessions’ nomination, but what is so unique about those views to require his extraordinary testimony? Nothing. This hearing simply offers a platform for his presidential aspirations."
Lewis, who is often called an "icon" of the civil rights movement, talked about Southern racism in the 1950s. He said he didn't think Sessions would protect civil rights. “It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you,” Lewis said. “We need someone who is going to stand up, speak up and speak out for the people that need help for people who’ve been discriminated against.”
Richmond, the Congressional Black Caucus chairman, besides saying Sessions will be a "co-conspirator in taking our country backwards," complained that he and Lewis and Booker were taken last. Custom calls for politicians to give testimony before, not after, other witnesses.
Richmond implied that the Judiciary Committee was racist to schedule them at the end of the two-day hearing. “To have a senator, a House member and a living civil rights legend testify at the end of all this is equivalent to being made to go to the back of the bus.”
But Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said the reason for the timing is because the trio made a tardy request late last week to testify. "The request came in (from Sen. Feinstein) after ... the agenda was already set, so the (only) place to put them is where they are now,” Grassley explained.
On the first day of the hearing Tuesday, Sessions calmly answered questions, standing by his pro-life views. In one exchange, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, grilled Sessions on the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and Sessions responded that he would enforce the FACE Act for people seeking abortion care, even though “I’m not in favor of that — I am pro-life.”
Blumenthal also falsely accused Operation Rescue of murdering infamous and illegal late-term abortionist George Tiller. The pro-life organization has since demanded a retraction for the lie and an apology for slander.
A vote on Sessions for Attorney General is expected by the end of January. In the meantime, Grassley, R-IA, said he will leave the record open, at least for the next week.