House Judiciary Committee Democrats Oppose Sessions Pick

Nov 18, 2016 Issues: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

Washington, DC – This morning, President-elect Donald Trump announced that U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) would be his choice for Attorney General.  We need an Attorney General who represents the American people’s best interests by fighting to strengthen voting rights, prevent violence against women, and work to reform our broken immigration system, among other priorities. Senator Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 following a history of racially-charged comments and disturbing attitudes towards minority groups; and his record since only furthers cause for concern.

The Democratic Members of the House Committee on the Judiciary issued the following joint statement in response:

“The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, charged with the administration of the criminal justice system and the enforcement of our civil rights.  We have grave concerns with Senator Sessions’ potential nomination for this post and urge President-elect Trump to reconsider.

“In 1986 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, witnesses said that Mr. Sessions had referred to the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other civil rights groups as ‘un-American’ and ‘Communist-inspired.’  One prosecutor in the Alabama U.S. Attorney’s Office testified that Mr. Sessions referred to him as ‘boy’ and counseled him to ‘be careful what you say to white folks.’  Senators of both parties expressed concern about his failed attempt to prosecute three civil rights activists on unfounded federal voting fraud charges.  His appointment to the federal bench was opposed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the Urban League, the American Jewish Committee, and the National Council of Churches.

“There is serious evidence that Sessions' outlook has not improved.

“The Senator’s view on women is abominable.  He opposed the reauthorization of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.  Over the course of the campaign, when tapes surfaced of President-elect Trump bragging about forcibly grabbing a woman by the genitals without her consent, Senator Sessions told a reporter: ‘I don’t characterize that as sexual assault.’

“His views on the immigrant community are equally disturbing. Senator Sessions has opposed nearly every immigration reform bill that has come before the Senate.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has already announced its opposition to the nominee, citing his association with “deeply racist” anti-immigrant organizations.

“Mr. Sessions remains a favorite of Stormfront, an online bastion of white nationalism.  His selection will reinforce the appointment of Steven Bannon, who built a media network dedicated to spreading bigoted, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic views.  It doubles down on Mr. Trump’s association with figures like Frank Gaffney and Alex Jones, whose conspiracy theories would be laughable if they did not now threaten to undo decades of progress in America.

“We also have grave concerns with how Senator Sessions might choose to staff the Department of Justice.  His views square with those of Kris Kobach, a Trump adviser who was himself mentioned as a candidate for Attorney General and who has already threatened mass deportations and a blatantly discriminatory Muslim immigrant registry. 

“We acknowledge that elections have consequences, and that we may have policy disagreements with whomever the Trump Administration selects to lead the Department of Justice.  Our concerns about this appointment is not a mere policy dispute.

“Senator Sessions does not seem fit to lead the Department of Justice.  His selection can only serve to divide us.  We urge President-elect Trump to select an Attorney General who is qualified to protect and defend the constitutional rights of all Americans.”