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Sessions Pick For AG Comes With Baggage

Businessman inside Lincoln Memorial at sunrise

November 21, 2016

When Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was up for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, his nomination was sunk when Justice Department employees testified that he had used racist language. Sessions, who said he was not a racist, has been tapped by President-Elect Donald Trump to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Legal and civil liberties experts are concerned about Sessions’ history regarding rights for African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Muslims and women. He was one of the first backers of Trump’s proposed outright ban on Muslims entering the country. In the past, Sessions has accused the NAACP and ACLU of being “un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people,” and said the 1965 Voting Rights Act is “intrusive.” When the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry, Sessions said the Court had “disregarded the men and women whose convictions have defined the course of western civilization.” However, Trump spokesman Jason Miller noted, Sessions voted for a 30-year extension of the Civil Rights Act, voted to confirm former AG Eric Holder, who is black, and voted to give civil rights icon Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.

“He knows the Justice Department as a former U.S. attorney, which would serve him very well in this position,” Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told the Washington Post. He predicted the committee would approve of Sessions’ nomination for consideration by the full Senate. Ranking member of the Judiciary, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said: “Senator Sessions has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for many years so he’s well aware of the thorough vetting he’s about to receive. And while many of us have worked with Senator Sessions closely and know him to be a staunch advocate for his beliefs, the process will remain the same: a fair and complete review of the nominee.” Former Justice officials and Democratic lawmakers predicted Sessions would reverse the emphasis put on civil rights and criminal justice reform put in place by former AG Holder. “From his time as U.S. attorney through his service on the Judiciary Committee, he has left serious doubts about whether he would faithfully enforce civil rights laws as attorney general,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “The Civil Rights Division was gutted during the last Republican administration, and the burden of proof is on Senator Sessions to show that he would not follow that same path.”

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