January 12, 2017
By Charlene Muhammad
Civil rights leaders condemned the rushed Jan. 10 hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions, President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General.
The Alabama Republican’s 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law, and hostility towards the protection of civil rights makes him unfit to serve as the Attorney General of the United States, insists civil rights leaders from The Leadership Conference, the National Action Network, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., NCAPA, NCLR and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Fund).
They called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose his nomination during a conference call with press on Jan. 6.
“This isn’t about partisan politics, this is about stopping an individual who has made racist comments and called the Voting Rights Act ‘intrusive,’ from heading the Justice Department. Nothing in his career suggests he understands justice,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network.
“Instead, his statements suggest he won’t enforce civil rights. It’s not the Anti-Justice Department, it’s an agency we rely on to protect freedom and democracy. He’s not the person for the job and we will do everything we can to block his appointment,” Sharpton stated.
According to the civil rights leaders, a coalition of organizations reported Sessions’ initial Senate Judiciary Questionnaire had hundreds of concerning omissions, and, that his application is “still astonishingly incomplete.”
His hypocrisy has been breathtaking, and he has grossly misrepresented his civil rights record by claiming that cases he had “no substantive involvement in” were among the most significant he personally handled, the coalition continued.
Sessions’ disregard for the Senate requirements shows a fundamental disregard for the office of Attorney General and for the Senate itself.
“The Attorney General is one of the most important positions in the entire federal government, as the Justice Department has the responsibility to vigorously enforce some of our nation’s most critical laws; to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans,” said Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.’s president and Director-Counsel, said, “There is only one real question before the Committee, the Senate, and the American people: Does the nearly 40 year record of Sen. Sessions in public life demonstrate that he is fit and prepared to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and particularly the chief enforcer of our nation’s civil rights laws? No matter how the hearing process is rigged, the rules are bent, or history is rewritten by Sen. Sessions’ supporters, his long and voluminous record demonstrates that the answer to that question is no.”
According to the civil rights leaders, in his questionnaire, Sessions lists four civil right cases among the 10 most significant he personally litigated. Three pertained to voting rights, and the final a school desegregation case. But three former Justice Department civil rights lawyers refuted his claims in an op-ed piece.
Sessions’ exaggerations are particularly concerning given his deplorable civil rights record, including his vote against the Violence Against Women Act and against expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation, the civil rights leaders went on.
“Republicans are rushing to rubberstamp Sessions’ nomination because they know that if they followed the rules—and if Senator Sessions submitted the required information—then his nomination would be rejected, just as it was 30 years ago (in his failed bid to become a federal judge), because he is still unable to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. The Attorney General serves as the People’s Lawyer, and there is too much at stake for Republican Senators to give special treatment to Senator Sessions just because he eats at the same lunch table and works out the same gym,” said Christopher Kang, director of National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
Janet Murguía, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, called Sessions the architect of the most extreme and anti-immigrant views and positions that have been promoted by President-elect Donald Trump.
“Throughout his career, he has staunchly opposed the progress of historically disenfranchised groups, whether it’s Blacks, Latinos, LGBT Americans, or women. Those of us who fight for a just society that values diversity and equal treatment under the law for all must work together to stop his confirmation as our nation's next attorney general,” she stated.
Thomas Saenz, president and General Counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Sessions’ scant available record on his views of the law indicates that he is far outside the mainstream of legal thinking in 21st century America, particularly on issues of greatest concern to the Latino community.
“It takes more than a law degree to be confirmed as Attorney General, the lead attorney in the federal government; the current record suggests that Sessions, without candidly acknowledging this view, rejects wholesale the development of constitutional civil rights law by the Supreme Court in the last 60 years,” Saenz said.
“Senator Sessions’ callous and caustic opposition to the vote and refusal to acknowledge the reality of voter suppression, means he’s not only a threat to the values of the America of the majority, but an even greater threat to the power of the vote and our democracy,” concurred Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP.