As President-Elect Donald Trump continues to appoint and nominate people to his cabinet, liberals continue to be rankled by his obviously partisan choices. But they shouldn’t be surprised as Trump has teased many of his selections previously. One of those people is Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for Attorney General.
Given the rocky history of the last two Attorneys General under President Obama, the nomination of an active Senator should be a step up from Obama’s first Attorney General Eric Holder and certainly from his second, Loretta Lynch.
Holder was eventually held in contempt of Congress and resigned in 2014 while Lynch was all but accused of corruption for meeting with ex-President Bill Clinton on her plane at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport while Clinton’s wife was under investigation by the FBI.
But for the Democrats, the choice of Sessions wasn’t good enough as some believe the senator has a racist background that disqualifies him for the post. But even cursory research into the Democrats’ charges reveal that the controversies which they’re up in arms over took place more than 30 years ago.
Specifically, there were two incidents that caused the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject Sessions’ nomination to be a judge in an Alabama U.S. District Court. A majority of the American Bar Association rated Sessions to be “qualified” for the bench, but a black assistant U.S. attorney stated in testimony that he had heard Sessions say he believed the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”
Sessions adamantly declared many times that this had been a joke, and others working in his office agreed with his account. Still, this and another incident where the same assistant U.S. attorney accused Sessions of calling him “boy” — Sessions denied it — were enough to raise doubts about the candidate to the point where he couldn’t get a majority of Senators to confirm him, making Sessions only the second federal judiciary nominee in 48 years to be rejected by the Judiciary Committee.
Conservatives may recall an online smear during the recent presidential race where former West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history) was shown in a photo kissing Hillary Clinton cordially on the cheek. The “meme” featuring this photograph claimed that Byrd was a member of the KKK; technically, the claim was correct — Byrd had briefly been a member of the KKK in the early 1940s, more than 70 years ago.
By 1952, when Byrd ran for the House of Representatives, he had thoroughly disavowed the organization and repudiated his membership in it. Byrd ended up apologizing again and again for his connection to the organization throughout his entire career.
In 2005, he was quoted as saying, “I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times … and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”
Similarly, Sessions has been contrite about his sarcastic joke that the wrong person remembered. But whether the Republicans will fight back as hard as the Democrats did when Clinton was smeared via Byrd remains to be seen.
Since 1986, Sessions has had an unblemished record as far as his career is concerned. In 1994, he became the Attorney General of Alabama, and two years later he was elected to be the junior senator from his state. When he became Senator, it was the first time Alabama had two Republicans in the Senate since the Reconstruction Era.
Sessions was an early advisor to Donald Trump, especially on matters of national security and immigration. Sessions’ communications director Stephen Miller joined Trump’s campaign in January of this year. In February, Sessions endorsed Trump for the presidency formally, becoming one of the few U.S. senators to do so. Sessions was considered to be one of Trump’s top choices for vice president before Trump ultimately settled on Mike Pence.
Sessions was ranked the fifth most conservative U.S. senator by National Journal in its rankings of liberals and conservatives in Congress. He backs most Republican positions on social issues, taxes and foreign policy.
He currently serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Budget Committee. Sessions is a big military booster and voted in favor of increasing the death benefit for families of fallen service members to $100,000 from $12,420. He also increased the amount of life insurance for soldiers to $400,000.
Sessions is strongly against granting citizenship to illegal immigrants and supports the building of Donald Trump’s southern U.S. border wall. He also supports the right of businesses to verify job applicants’ immigration status before their hiring.
He’s an advocate of small business, winning recognition from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) at least four times for his Congressional efforts helping entrepreneurs. Sessions opposed the bank bailout stimulus bill of 2008 and the 2011 jobs bill pushed by President Obama, saying that both would add tremendously to the national debt.
He’s argued vehemently against using government funds to distribute books about Islam to U.S. libraries and is a fierce critic of the H1-B visa program, which helps foreign-born applicants get high-tech jobs, often at the expense of American workers.
Sessions has been an opponent of same-sex marriage and of government funding for same-sex programs at colleges and universities. He’s strongly against marijuana legalization and has said it’s important to spread the “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Sessions is against abortion and federal funding for stem cell research. He voted against Obamacare and is a skeptic of climate change. Sessions voted against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and opposes President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court Merrick Garland.
Given the Republican makeup of the Senate, it’s likely that Sessions will be confirmed. His controversies of 30 years ago may perturb uneducated voters on online media, but they likely won’t be enough to generate significant Democratic opposition to his nomination.