Alert #18: Confirmation hearings for Jefferson Sessions for Attorney-General

This week begin the confirmation hearings for Popular-Vote-Loser Trump’s cabinet picks. First up is

Jeff Sessions for attorney-general, starting Tuesday.

(For those of you who are uncomfortable with the informal mode of address, note that his full first name is “Jefferson,” as in Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. A coincidence? I have no idea. Just sayin’.)

A quick review:

In 1986, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary rejected this man of the law for the post of federal judge because he was too racist. At that time, the chair of said Committee was Strom Thurmond, who had famously said, years earlier, “All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.”

Sessions was too racist for Strom Thurmond. Think on that for a moment.

Here are some highlights:

More recently, Sessions stated that grabbing a woman’s genitalia is not sexual assault.

According to former Justice Department civil rights lawyer J. Gerald Hebert, who worked  on civil rights cases when Sessions was US attorney in Alabama, observing him in action close up, this man is no friend of civil rights. And yet, for the purposes of the upcoming confirmation hearings, his biography is receiving a makeover, with him now being portrayed as a champion of racial equality, with liberty and justice for all.

Hebert wrote in the Washington Post:

“In the questionnaire he filed recently with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions (R-Ala.) listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated “personally” as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. Following criticism for exaggerating his role, he then claimed that he provided “assistance and guidance” on these cases.

We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it.”

Read the full article here:

Hebert also wrote recently in the Washington Post [different article]:

“[Sessions] falsely charged three African American civil rights activists in Alabama, including a longtime adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., with 29 counts of mail fraud, altering absentee ballots and attempting to vote multiple times. The evidence showed that these activists were simply helping elderly African American voters complete mail-in ballots. All were acquitted of every charge.

In the decades since, Sessions has promoted the myth of voter-impersonation fraud, despite overwhelming evidence that it is exceedingly rare. At the same time, he has ignored the racial impact of voting restrictions, which have a well-documented negative effect on minority communities, the impoverished and the elderly. He has disagreed that people are sometimes denied the right to vote, and in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, he proclaimed victory.”

Read the full article here:

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who also litigated voting rights cases in Alabama when working for the NAACP, wrote to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary the other day about his experiences with Sessions, urging against his nomination for Attorney-General.

Last week when the Congress attempted under cover of darkness to rewrite ethics rules and strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its independence, we saw how an outpouring of protest from indignant citizens, mainly in the form of phone calls to members of the House and Senate, can pull our legislators back from the brink, saving them from themselves. (Well, and in the strange bedfellows department, Trump was also opposed to the move, for reasons about which we can only speculate.) Now we must do this again. And again. Sessions is a Senator, and it is not easy to get members of that club to play hardball with each other. This will require lots of pressure from us.

Call your representatives and tell them to ask Jefferson Sessions the tough questions.

Here are some ideas to get you warmed up:

Why is Sessions claiming substantive involvement in civil rights litigation in Alabama when all he did was to affix his signature to the cases, a neutral act required by his position?

When he was US attorney in Alabama, absentee ballots were being widely and effectively used by white voters, yet Sessions prosecuted only black voters for the use of absentee ballots, and only in districts where they were placing white incumbents at risk of losing political ground. Why?

Does he genuinely think that grabbing a woman’s genitalia is not sexual assault? Precisely what, in his view, are the elements of the crime of sexual assault?

And now, let your imagination run wild: come up with more questions like these.

Google reports that searches on “Who are my Congressperson/Senators?” have spiked in recent weeks. Let’s keep that question at the top of the list.

Phoning our representatives is one of the most powerful tools in the protest arsenal.

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