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Sessions endures hard questioning during Judiciary Committee hearings

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has finished its hearings on whether or not to confirm US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) as President Donald Trump’s Attorney General; but the controversy remains.

US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said to Sessions, “You are a friend. You are a man of integrity. You and I have worked closely together on this committee, on the Armed Services Committee. And I have every confidence you are going to make a superb attorney general.”

US Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said, “Senator Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requirement of the job — to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights and justice for all. In fact, at numerous times in his career, he has demonstrated a hostility toward these convictions, and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals. If confirmed, Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t.”

US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, “Our hearing today hardly introduces Senator Sessions to the Committee. No, we’re here today to review the character and qualifications of a colleague who has served alongside us in the Senate for twenty years. That includes time as the Ranking Member of this Committee. We know him well. We know the policy positions he has taken as a legislator. I’ve been on both sides of debates with Senator Sessions. Having served with him for so long we pretty well know whether he supports your policy positions or opposes them. He tells us so with thoughtfulness, humility, and respect. As a former Chairman of this Committee has put it, Senator Sessions is ‘wonderful to work with.’ We know him to be, as another senior Democrat on this Committee described him, ‘a man of his word.’ As a third senior Democrat colleague put it, ‘he is always a gentleman; he is straightforward and fair.’ Most of all, the Members of this Committee know him to be a leader who has served the people of Alabama—and all Americans—with integrity, dedication, and courage.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said, “Throughout his Senate career, Senator Sessions has advocated an extremely conservative agenda. For example: He voted no, and spoke for nearly 30 minutes in this committee against a Leahy amendment two years ago, that expressed the sense of the Senate that ‘the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.’ He voted against each of three bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bills—in 2006, 2007 and 2013. Twice he voted against the DREAM Act—the bill for undocumented youth, known as Dreamers, who were brought here as children, through no choice of their own—calling it and I quote, ‘reckless proposal for mass amnesty,’ end quote. He voted against efforts to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ calling them ‘lawful’ and praising Attorney General Mukasey in 2008 for refusing to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future. These interrogation techniques are, and were at the time, illegal. And, thanks to a provision Senator McCain placed in the defense authorization bill this past year, they are now prohibited from use. In addition, Senator Sessions voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, which, among other things, expanded hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Arguing against the hate crimes law in 2009, he said this ‘today I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it,’ end quote.”

Sen. Cruz said, “This has been an interesting day at this hearing, listening to Democratic Senator after Democratic Senator give speeches and praise the rule of law. And I am heartened by that. I am encouraged by that because for eight years it’s been absent. For eight years we have seen a Department of Justice consistently disregarding the rule of law. When Eric Holder’s Department of Justice allowed illegal gun transactions, illegally sold guns to Mexican gun traffickers as part of Fast and Furious, guns that were later used to murder border patrol agent Brian Terry, the Democratic members of this committee were silent. When Eric Holder was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with Congress’ investigation into Fast and Furious, once again, the Democratic members of this committee were silent. When the IRS illegally targeted United States citizens for exercising their First Amendment views, for exercising their roles in the political process, Democratic members of this committee were silent. When the Department of Justice refused to fairly investigate the IRS targeting citizens and indeed assigned the investigation to a liberal partisan Democrat who had given over $6,000 to President Obama and Democrats, Democrats on this committee were silent.”

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Sen. Cruz continued, “When numerous members of this committee called on the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to ensure that justice was done in the IRS case, Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Department of Justice used Operation Choke Point to target legal businesses because they disagreed politically with those businesses, the Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Obama Justice Department sent millions of dollars of taxpayer money to sanctuary cities that were defying federal immigration law, the Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Obama administration refused to enforce federal immigration laws and unilaterally rewrote those laws, the Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Obama administration released tens of thousands of criminal illegal aliens, including rapists and murderers into the general population, Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Department of Justice signed off on the Obama administration paying a nearly $2 billion ransom to Iran contrary to federal law, the Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Obama administration ignored and rewrote provision after provision of Obamacare, contrary to the text of the law, the Democrats on this committee were silent. When the Obama administration signed off on illegal recess appointments that the Supreme Court had to strike down unanimously, the Democrats on this committee were silent. And when the Obama administration released five Guantanamo terrorists without the prior notification of Congress, the Democrats on this committee were silent. That pattern has been dismaying for eight years.”

Sen. Grassley said, “After his time in private practice, Senator Sessions served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama. He then headed that office after the Senate confirmed him as United States Attorney, a post he held for a dozen years. All told, that’s 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the Department. It was during that time that he oversaw the investigation of Klansman Francis Hays for the brutal abduction and murder of a black teenager, Michael Donald. He made sure that case was brought in state court where the defendant was eligible for and received the punishment he justly deserved: the death penalty. His office then successfully prosecuted that murderer’s accomplice in Federal court. Based on his prosecutorial record, the people of Alabama elected him their Attorney General and then their Senator. He has served with us since 1997. And, as our former Chairman observed, this Committee has relied on him for his prosecutorial experience during the course of his Senate service. Throughout his public service, both within the Department and outside of it, he has raised his hand and served when called upon. He has done his duty, enforced the law fairly, and let the chips fall where they may. Reflecting on this record of service, it’s no surprise that Senator Sessions is also an Eagle Scout.”

Sen. Booker said, “I am literally sitting here because of people — marchers in Alabama and volunteer lawyers in New Jersey — who saw it as their affirmative duty to pursue justice. The march for justice in America still continues. I know of the urgency for law and order. I imagine that no sitting Senator has lived in higher crime neighborhoods than I have. I have seen unimaginable violence on American streets. I know the tremendous courage of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to fight crime. I want an Attorney General who is committed to supporting law enforcement and securing law and order. But that is not enough. America was founded heralding not law and order, but justice for all. And critical to that is equal justice under the law. Law and order without justice is unobtainable, they are inextricably tied together. If there is no justice, there is no peace.”

US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said on social media, “It was embarrassing to watch some of those who testified against Senator Jeff Sessions today. They clearly don’t really know Jeff Sessions and simply took part in the hearing just to advance their personal political goals. I thought one of Sessions’ former employees, Willie Huntley, put it best: Jeff Sessions is the same man in private as he is in public…always a true gentleman.”

The Senate will not vote on whether to confirm Jeff Sessions as Attorney General until after the inauguration.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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