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Who Is Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Pick for Attorney General?

Saturday, November 19, 2016 12:17
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    Sen. Jeff Sessions. (Gage Skidmore / (CC-BY-2.0))

Jeff Sessions, a senator from Alabama who wrongly prosecuted black activists for voter fraud, who was prevented from becoming a judge for making racist comments, and who opposed the Voting Rights Act, will control the federal government’s enforcement of civil rights laws as Donald Trump’s attorney general. And that includes investigating Black Lives Matter.

“Like the Confederate general he is named after,” writes Ari Berman at The Nation, “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has long been a leading voice for the Old South and the conservative white backlash vote Trump courted throughout his campaign.”

The Intercept’s Alice Speri adds:

In 1986, President Reagan tapped [Sessions] to serve as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but at the time the Senate found him too racist for the post, and he became the second nominee in fifty years to be denied an appointment.

Sessions was pressed on accusations that he had called a black prosecutor “boy” and a white civil rights attorney “a disgrace to his race.” He was called out on his comment that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot” and that the NAACP and ACLU were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

(Sessions denied calling the prosecutor “boy” but not the other comments.)

“If Sessions’s racism killed his chance on the bench, it certainly didn’t kill his political career,” Speri continues. “[A] decade later he was elected to the Senate, where he spent the next two decades fighting civil rights progress.”

Among other positions, Sessions opposed the Violence Against Women Act, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the expansion of anti-hate legislation to include sexual orientation.

He fought the removal of the Confederate flag, immigration reform, and criminal justice reform.

Sessions’s opposition to voting rights — which as Attorney General he would be in charge of protecting — dates back to his days as U.S. Attorney in Alabama, when he wrongly prosecuted a group of black activists for voter fraud. Decades later, in 2013, he praised the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, denying its impact on black voters, even as the immediate impact in his own state was that officials tried to close 31 DMV offices, in majority black counties, just as the state passed more restrictive voter ID requirements.

Sessions was the first sitting senator to endorse Trump. He responded to the President-elect’s “grab them by the pussy” remark by saying, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault.”

Speri adds: “Trump, who was endorsed by the KKK, said he would instruct his attorney general to investigate Black Lives Matter. If Sessions gets confirmed, he’ll be the right man to lead that effort.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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