Democrats have been up in arms ever since President-elect Donald Trump announced that he had selected Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. Sessions, 70 years old, was the first U.S. Senator to endorse Donald Trump for President back in February. The liberals are accusing the Republican senator from the state of Alabama, whose given name is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, of being a racist.
On November 18, 2016, the day the Sessions selection for Attorney General was announced, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was quick to criticize the pick. There are “troubling things” in the record of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, and he will need to be “questioned very carefully” before he is confirmed as the next U.S. attorney general, the New York Democrat told the media. “One question I’d want to ask him, ‘What do you want to do with the Civil Rights Division?” Schumer said.
On January 1, 2017, Schumer reiterated his position about Sessions by announcing that the Attorney General Nominee was among eight Trump cabinet picks which he deemed worthy of deeper scrutiny and a slow walking of the confirmation process. On January 3, when the 115th Congress opened, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California), the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chairman requesting a delay in the confirmation hearings for Sessions, which are currently scheduled for the week January 10-11.
The racist allegations continued with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) protesting the selection of Sessions. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the newly minted head of the CBC, did not mince words. “His beliefs are discriminatory, his actions are discriminatory, and the things that he proposes and the things that he supports — and the things that he doesn’t support that are helpful to the minority community — have a disproportionate impact on people of color,” Richmond said.
The theme continued with Cornell William Brooks, the President and CEO of the NAACP, staging a protest at the Mobile Alabama offices of Senator Sessions on January 3. Brooks was interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who added insult to injury by primarily asking Brooks softball questions. 1100 law professors also jumped into the fray by sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday, January 3 urging them to reject the nomination of Sessions for Attorney General. The letter, which was signed by professors from 170 schools representing 48 states (only Alaska and North Dakota were not represented.) will also later appear as a full page ad directed to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,” states the letter, which was signed by prominent legal scholars.
On Friday January 6, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced that he will oppose Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General on the grounds that Sessions has “an unacceptable record on civil rights”. The racist narrative surrounding Sessions is largely the result of the 1986 confirmation hearing where President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions, then a 39-year-old prosecutor for a federal judgeship which ended with the Senate Judiciary Committee rejecting Sessions because of testimony that he had allegedly called the ACLU and the AACP anti-American and communist and had also made other racist remarks.
The accusations were in part levied by Thomas Figures, a black attorney who had been employed by Sessions. Figures claimed that Sessions had called him “boy” and that Sessions had joked that the KKK was “O.K. until [he] found out they smoked pot.” Another attorney, J. Gerald Hebert, claimed that Sessions had commented that a white attorney was “a disgrace” for representing black clients.
Advocates for Sessions claim that the allegations that the Attorney General nominee demonstrated racist behavior in the past are unsubstantiated. Sessions denied the “boy” comment and insists that the other so called racist comments were misrepresentations of his past statements. In addition, while serving as a US attorney, Sessions litigated several cases calling for the desegregation of schools in Alabama. Moreover, he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, the son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for kidnapping and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager and insisted that Hays receive the death penalty for his crime. When Session became Alabama’s Attorney General, he followed up on the case and made sure that Hays was executed. The case against Hayes also involved a $7 million judgement against the Klan which for all intents and purposes ended the Klan’s power within Alabama.
Sessions has also been characterized as a racist because he takes a hard line on voter fraud. While serving as a US attorney he prosecuted a group of civil rights activists which included an individual who worked as an aide to Martin Luther King Jr. in Perry County, Alabama. While Sessions claims that he did not adequately “make the case” to show voter fraud, the Perry County case has been used to paint Sessions as a racist. Once again, the facts tell a different story. Allegations of voter fraud have plagued Perry County for many years due to documented evidence that some individuals were paid to vote multiple times.
Members of the African-American community who have worked with Sessions have stated that the claims that Sessions is racist have no basis in fact. Sessions managed to rise above the fallout from his failed judicial nomination to become the attorney general of Alabama and then later a US Senator from Alabama. During his tenure in these roles there has been no substantiated claim of racism. In fact, Sessions was one of the handful of Republicans who voted to confirm African-American Eric Holder for Attorney General.
Sessions is being scapegoated by the Democrats and the media because they do not like his policies. Firstly, they are unhappy that he is such a loyal Trump supporter. He was the first US Senator to endorse Trump for president. Secondly, they do not like his hardline Republican stances on voter fraud and voter ID, illegal immigration and marijuana legalization. Thirdly, they do not like the fact that he clearly wants to restore ethics and accountability to the Department of Justice which has become highly politicized during the tenure of the last two attorney generals Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. Or said another way, Sessions is threatening because he wants to “drain the swamp”.