Smearing Sessions

Trump's Attorney General pick rises above Democratic character assassinations.

After Donald Trump’s surprise victory last November, many observers assumed that former New York major Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, would be the pick for Attorney General. It turned out to be Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a favorite target of the left. 

The 70-year-old grandfather is a person of no color, which in the politically correct ethos counts as a strike against him. Sessions is also from southern Alabama, and as he noted in the January 10 hearings, his accent betrays him. Critics had been making that a target for a long time. 

“Who is this vile, lisping piglet known as the ‘top ranking Republican’ on the Senate Judiciary Committee calling everybody and everything (mostly Elena Kagan) Communist and Anti-American?” the Wonkette website wanted to know in 2010. “Why it’s Alabama heartthrob Jeff Sessions,” who was “a complete racist and Bircher-style paranoid.” Similar charges have set the tone since then. 

“Donald Trump has chosen a white nationalist as his chief strategist and a white-nationalist sympathizer as his pick for Attorney General,” wrote Ari Berman in The Nation. “Like the Confederate general he is named after, 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.” 

Like others at The Nation, Berman possesses special knowledge of the future. “Like the man he’ll soon be working for,” Berman concluded, “Sessions’s past and current views show that he remains on the wrong side of history.”

As the confirmation hearings approached the campaign against Sessions took a narrower focus. A January 3 Washington Post op-ed by former Justice Department attorneys Gerald Hebert, Joseph Rich and William Yeomans charged that that Sessions “is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights.”

Sessions, the attorneys argued, had exaggerated his role in several cases on his questionnaire. The AG nominee had “worked against civil rights at every turn,” and offered a “fake” record. The trio’s editorial came up several times in the January 10 hearing, most notably from Minnesota Democrat and former comedian Al Franken. Sessions outlined his role in the cases but that did not satisfy the former comic, who twice told the committee he was not a lawyer.

Several times during the Tuesday hearings, protesters began shouting “KKK,” “Black Lives Matter” and such. Sen. Ted Cruz acknowledged their freedom of speech and brought some detail to one of Sessions’ cases. 

In 1981, the Ku Klux Klan ordered the murder of 19-year-old black man Michael Donald. Sessions, then a U.S. Attorney, told prosecutors, “tell me what you need and you will have it,” and without his help they could not have made their case. As Alabama Attorney General, Sessions upheld the death sentence against the murderer, Francis Hays. 

It also emerged that Sessions had taken up a voter fraud case brought by black elected officials whose ballots had been stolen and altered to support their opponents. So Jeff Sessions was not trying to prevent black people, or anybody else, from voting. Even so, Democrats turned from Sessions’ actual record to guilt by association. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that in 2003 Sessions gave a speech expressing admiration for David Horowitz, who was on record that all the major Muslim organizations in the United States are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, that 80 percent of the mosques in America are filled with hate against Jews, and that too many blacks are in prison because too many blacks commit crimes. The Connecticut Democrat asked Sessions if he was aware of these “apparently racist” statements by Horowitz. 

Sessions told the Committee David Horowitz was not a racist, and that the author of Radical Son was a “brilliant individual.” Blumenthal wanted Sessions to renounce David Horowitz and return the award, along with an award from Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy any award he had received from the Ku Klux Klan.. 

That might have been the nadir of the hearing, but it did emerge that Jeff Sessions had joined with Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center in a successful legal action against the Ku Klux Klan. 

Ranking member Dianne Feinstein told the Committee there was “so much fear in this country” and expressed “Deep concerns and anxieties what a Trump administration will bring, in many cases.” The California Democrat, 83, wondered if Sessions would “dispatch himself” from Donald Trump, and brought letters of opposition from law professors and such. 

Plenty of letters arrived in favor of Jeff Sessions, one from former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who grew up in Alabama, where Republicans registered her father to vote. A letter from former Democratic Senator and vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman said he did not always agree with everything anybody said, but on Sessions he would vote “Aye.”

 

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