Editorials and Opinion
Inquirer Editorial: Trump cabinet, inner circle, raise concerns; not confidence (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 02/13/17)
"It's troubling enough that Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R., Ala.) was confirmed as attorney general, considering he was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his comments on race. ... As a U.S. attorney in Alabama, his office wrongly prosecuted three black community organizers for voter fraud. ... During his nomination for a federal judgeship, lawyers who worked with him testified that he made racially insensitive remarks, and called the NAACP "un-American." ... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) was blocked from reading a letter on the Senate floor that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, Coretta, wrote in 1986. It said Sessions used the "awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens." That is a real concern.
The silencing of Warren by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was an act of arrogance and intolerance"
Elections need oversight, not GOP deceit | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 02/13/17)
Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Voter suppression efforts and the weakening of civil rights protections will go into overdrive with a new Attorney General on board, and Jeff Sessions will be eager to serve and to drive another nail in democracy's coffin: He has opposed the Voting Rights Act, and is clearly disinclined to enforce its remaining provisions.
[Editorial] Jeff Sessions carries the weight of a divided nation on his shoulders (Dallas Morning News, 02/10/17)
"Sessions begins his duties under the shadow of as many doubts about his suitability for the office as any attorney general in the modern era. ... First, many asked whether such an early and vocal supporter of candidate Donald Trump would say no, when necessary, to a president who's shown such little patience for dissent, disagreement or even delay. Many also questioned whether Sessions, given his record as a lawmaker and federal prosecutor, would zealously enforce civil rights, voting rights and other laws, including the ban on the use of torture by intelligence agents.... This newspaper remains unconvinced that Sessions was the best choice for the office he now holds."
Editorial: Quashing dissent isn’t just a Trump thing, it’s the new Republican way (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 02/08/17)
"Racist and sexist overtones were glaring. The predominantly white male GOP officially rebuked Warren, a woman, for reading a letter written 30 years ago by another woman, the late Coretta Scott King. The widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King excoriated then judicial nominee and now attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions for his appalling record on civil rights. ... Sessions’ voting record in Congress has continued the pattern of disdain for voting rights and other civil rights causes that Coretta Scott King saw in 1986. These are among the most important laws that attorneys general are supposed to enforce. He was rejected for a seat on the bench in 1986 and he is a terrible nominee for this office."
Gazette editorial: The letter Senate Republicans didn't want to hear (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 02/08/17)
"Outrage about the Alabaman's prejudice caused him to be rejected as a U.S. judge three decades ago.
This week, with Sessions poised to become America's top lawyer, responsible for enforcing civil rights laws, .... The disturbing racial record of Sessions was a legitimate topic for Senate debate. His record raises doubt whether he would enforce federal equality laws."
[Editorial] Our Opinion: Senator Warren won't be muzzled (Berkshire Eagle [MA] , 02/08/17)
"The Republicans' shameful action was inexcusable on a number of levels. The statement of Mrs. King was relevant because Mr. Sessions' nomination for that federal judgeship was rejected in a bipartisan vote on the basis of his statements and actions as a U.S. attorney that showed bias against African-Americans.... The letter read, in part, that "Mr. Sessions' conduct as U.S. attorney, from his politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge." That argument carried the day at the time."
[Editorial] ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ (Miami Herald, 02/08/17)
MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD: Sen. Elizabeth Warren must have figured she could breathe life into the words of Coretta Scott King.... Republicans, employing a rarely used tactic, rebuked Warren and shut her down, pouting that she said things that made Sessions look bad — even though he’s done a good job of that himself.
For the record, King was decrying Sessions’ politically motivated attempts at the time to deny African Americans the right to vote. That should be cause enough to reject him again.
EDITORIAL: Will Sessions enforce Trump’s travel order? Senators must know before they vote. (Bangor Daily News [ME], 02/01/17)
"Rather than speculate about what Sessions would do, the full Senate should not move ahead with his nomination until Sessions answers those questions, not in writing, but in front the Judiciary Committee, where follow-up questions can be asked and answered.... Will Sessions, who helped craft Trump’s immigration policy, enforce, and allow other federal agencies to enforce, the president’s executive order? If his answer is yes, will he direct lawyers within the Justice Department to defend the order in court? Will he order government officials to violate temporary stays of the order that have been issued by federal courts?
If the answers to these questions are yes, Sessions is not qualified to be attorney general because his allegiance would be to Trump and not to the Constitution and laws that he would swear to uphold.
This is the conclusion Sen. Angus King has reached."
Editorial: Sessions isn't the attorney general we need (Los Angeles Times, 01/31/17)
"[W]e believe the Senate should reject the nomination. ... Civil rights groups are virtually unanimous in opposing Sessions’ confirmation because they fear that he won’t vigorously enforce those laws. We share their concern. ... Our concern is about what he’s done and where he stands on the issues. ... With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, it’s especially important that the attorney general be a figure with a reputation for independence and an unquestioned commitment to the cause of equal justice under law. Sessions falls short of meeting that job description."
[Editorial Board] A look back at Jeff Sessions and Alabama's schools (Anniston Star [AL] , 01/29/17)
""How Jeff Sessions helped kill equitable school funding in Alabama" is an awful example of the senator's AG legacy in our state. ... Sessions, Propublica wrote, "hired expensive private lawyers to fight the findings of the court — first at the district level, later at the state Supreme Court level. He succeeded in removing a judge sympathetic to the plight of poor students from the case. He filed appeal after appeal, insisting he be heard even after the state’s highest court issued final decisions. He fought every effort by the court to require that schools in the state’s poorer communities be funded at the same levels as its wealthier ones." ... Sessions' role in this dispiriting case is undeniable. And Alabama's public schools? That inequity still exists."
[Editorial] President Trump alleges an illegal-voting crime spree of historic proportions; will his Justice Department prosecute? (New York Daily News, 01/24/17)
"President Trump now insists that a massive 3 to 5 million undocumented immigrants cast ballots in the presidential election. (The old number he made up was 2 to 3 million.)
This is, it’s important to say, an assertion utterly unsupported by evidence. We old-fashioned types call it a lie.... We point Trump and his soon-to-be-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who himself has a sordid history of prosecuting people for voting, to 18 U.S. Code, Section 611. “It shall be unlawful for any alien to vote" ... Consider your bluff officially called."
[Editorial] Sessions should recuse himself from investigations into the election (Washington Post, 01/24/17)
"When Judiciary Committee Democrats pressed Mr. Sessions on how he would handle election hacking prosecutions or investigations of potential connections between Trump associates and Russian authorities, Mr. Sessions repeatedly responded: “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself" ... But the basis for recusal is clear. Like Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sessions played a key role in the president’s campaign. At the least, Mr. Sessions would raise the appearance of a conflict if he made law enforcement decisions related to that campaign.... The Senate should insist on such a commitment before it votes."
Editorial: A shady practice needs to end (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 01/22/17)
"The knock against the practice — sometimes called “civil asset forfeiture” — has been clear and simple for many years: Allowing law-enforcement agencies to confiscate people’s personal property without even filing criminal charges, let alone obtaining a conviction, violates the nation’s bedrock principles regarding justice. What’s more, allowing law-enforcement agencies to keep and spend the proceeds of such seizures gives them an overwhelming incentive to further abuse an already abusive system.... Last year Attorney General Eric Holder announced some reforms of asset forfeiture. They might not be long for this world: Donald Trump’s nominee for the post, Jeff Sessions, supports policing for profit."
Editorial: Justice Department can't ignore bad policing (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 01/18/17)
"The Justice Department's thorough report detailing the Chicago Police Department's systemic disregard for civil rights is a sickening account of excessive force and abuse. ... Yet President-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has criticized such federal efforts as overreaching. Whether it's civil rights or voting rights, Washington cannot look the other way when there is nowhere else to turn for help.... A Justice Department led by Sessions may not be so vigilant. During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, he expressed skepticism about the two dozen "pattern-or-practice" investigations the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights Division opened during the Obama administration. Sessions was much more concerned that those investigations could hurt police morale and suggested the bad behavior could be from just a few rogue cops. That misses the point entirely and glosses over the systemic police misconduct in Chicago. And Baltimore. And Cleveland. And Seattle. And Ferguson.... Sessions is similarly disinterested in aggressively enforcing voting rights for all Americans."
Camden's police story goes to Congress | Editorial (South Jersey Times [NJ], 01/17/17)
"Although the Republican House speaker is not member of the incoming Trump administration, it would be welcome if his influence could tamp down the "police-are-being-handcuffed" rhetoric from some Trump appointees. U.S. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions has made clear that he dislikes federal investigations into local police departments' alleged use of excessive force and civil rights violations, and Justice Department consent orders that so often prompt reforms."
[Editorial] Jeff Sessions and Martin Luther King: Our view: Nominee's past raises questions about future attorney general. (USA Today, 01/15/17)
"[T]he future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans.
President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score. ... the nominee's encouraging promises cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job.... there is enough in recent history to raise concerns. He would not be our choice for the job."
[Editorial] Sessions says he cares about civil rights. He’ll have to prove it. (Washington Post, 01/15/17)
"There are substantive objections to Mr. Sessions, for years an ideological outlier in the Senate, ascending to the pinnacle of the U.S. justice system. ... he mostly evaded specific questions about discriminatory voter ID laws, which the Justice Department must play a key role in fighting, and he was unenthusiastic about “pattern or practice” investigations against errant local police forces that have resulted in valuable reforms, particularly in the past several years. He pointed out that he voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but his Democratic interlocutors reminded him that he also opposed fixing a core section after the Supreme Court gutted it.
Most concerning was Mr. Sessions’s habit of pleading ignorance to avoid taking clear positions on some pressing issues."
Senate should reject Sessions for attorney general post (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 01/14/17)
Amy Goodman / Syndicated Columnist: As U.S. senator, he voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and opposes comprehensive immigration reform, marriage equality and hate-crime protections for LGBTQ victims. He also is a fierce critic of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. ... Sessions has been consistent throughout his career. The Senate Judiciary Committee should be equally consistent and reject Sessions as attorney general, as it rejected him for a judgeship 30 years ago.
Editorial: Western issues not addressed by nominees (Longmont Daily Times-Call [CO], 01/14/17)
"Starting with the hearing for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, the red flags are starting to become evident. In his hearing last week, a very small portion dealt with his philosophy on the law enforcement challenge of legalized marijuana in wester states. His response was to encourage voters to create the change in Congress, rather than trying to exercise their rights expressed in the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights."
Editorial: A Slap in the Face for Immigrants: Jeff Sessions again demonstrated the lack of clarity he has regarding the complex issue of immigration (El Diario, 01/11/17)
"Senator Jeff Sessions’ ideas for the Justice Department are a nightmare about to come true for immigrants. ... Sessions expressed that the priority is to deport criminals, while also justifying leaving Dreamers in a situation that would facilitate their deportation.... We worry about Sessions’ concerns about Latinos during the confirmation hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. There, the senator devoted almost 30 minutes to the famous “wise Latina” comment, considering it biased, and later tried unsuccessfully to demonstrate that it was a problem that there are too many Latino judges compared to the number of lawyers of this ethnicity. Sessions’ background leads us to believe that the Department of Justice will abandon its priority of defending minorities."
Editorial: Sessions’ right-wing values sure to follow him as AG (Chicago Sun Times, 01/11/17)
"In response to questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions .... avoided potential conflicts by soft-pedaled reality. In truth, every attorney sets priorities, informed by his or her own values, because there’s no way around it .... Even a big federal bureaucracy has a limit to its resources. A nominee might say “I’ll enforce the law” — they all do say that — but every attorney general is afforded huge latitude as to which laws to enforce aggressively. ... It matters, then, that Sessions holds unfortunate views on many of the big issues of the day. It matters that he has a retrograde public record on voting rights, climate change, same-sex marriage, the environment, immigration, incarceration, free speech and religious freedom.
We are a nation of laws, but men and women enforce those laws. Or they do not."
EDITORIAL: Sessions shouldn't be confirmed (Auburn Plainsman [AL], 01/11/17)
"We, in view of Sessions’ record as Alabama’s attorney general and his time spent representing Alabama in D.C., do not believe Sessions should be confirmed as the next U.S. attorney general.... Sessions spreads the myth that crime in America has gotten out of control (it’s actually been decreasing for over a decade) and uses this false premise to argue against criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing incarcerations.... A man with such a simplistic and calloused view on drug users cannot be allowed to run our federal penitentiaries, .... One of the most vital pillars of our society could be further eroded under a Sessions Justice Department: voting rights.
Despite his claim to support it, Sessions has been highly critical of the Voting Rights Act throughout the past.... Sessions has supported voting restrictions through the use of voter ID laws on the premise that voter fraud is an urgent problem (it’s actually extremely rare), which disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.... We can’t risk giving Sessions such an influential position, lest our country be ripe for regressing to a condition similar to Alabama’s."
[Editorial] Jeff Sessions Smooth-Talks the Senate (New York Times, 01/11/17)
EDITORIAL BOARD: A large dose of outrage is certainly called for, given the damage four years of a Sessions-led Justice Department would likely inflict on the hard-won yet fragile advances made for civil rights, racial and gender equality and humane justice. The prospect is particularly stark coming after President Obama’s Justice Department, which has aggressively defended and expanded civil rights for people and groups who were previously unprotected.
Mr. Sessions did nothing on Tuesday to dispel the understandable fears that he would stall if not reverse much of that progress. His defense against charges of racism that caused the Senate to reject him for a federal judgeship in 1986 was largely to say it hurt his feelings to be called racist, but his two decades in the Senate provide little hope that he has changed.... He showed little interest in standing up for the rights of the most vulnerable Americans: say, poor and minority voters disenfranchised by strict and unnecessary voter-ID laws (he has been a strong proponent of those laws, he said).
Booker's bad manners? Sessions deserves it | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/11/17)
"Before even hearing what Sen. Cory Booker had to say on Wed., Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), dismissed his testimony about the attorney general nomination of fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions as "a disgraceful breach of custom." ... The idea that this violates some basic protocol, that one of the few black Senators - backed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon - should mind his manners is, in a word, obnoxious. Particularly coming from Cotton. Don't forget, he was the one who spearheaded the letter sent by 46 Republican senators to Iran's hardline leaders, to discourage them from signing a nuclear arms control pact with President Obama.
That shameful undermining of our international negotiations led to accusations of treason. Now he attacks Booker for violating "custom"?
Here in New Jersey, we were cheering him on. Booker had every reason to speak up. Sessions has a terrible resume in Alabama and should not be Attorney General. From gay rights to voting rights to police brutality, his record is one of standing against civil rights at every turn."
[Editorial] Stand firm (Rutland Herald [VT] , 01/11/17)
"Sen. Patrick Leahy is taking a tough view toward the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Hearings are under way before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Leahy is one of several Democrats who have pledged to stand up for the political independence of the Justice Department and for the civil rights of all Americans.... Sessions has opposed measures supported by Leahy that would have protected the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities. These included a hate-crimes bill sponsored by Leahy, as well as the Violence Against Women Act and a resolution rejecting the targeting of religions groups for immigration restrictions.... The danger is that Sessions would ransack the Justice Department, sweeping out any career lawyers suspected of objectionable political views.... Leahy, too, should refuse to be sweet-talked or intimidated into voting for an attorney general who means to reverse the gains of hard-won civil rights battles and turn back the clock of history.
Inquirer Editorial: Cabinet posts too important to rush ethics probes (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/10/17)
"Hearings kick off Tuesday with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) who is up for attorney general. Sessions has called the Voting Rights Act burdensome legislation. How can anyone have faith that he will enforce it? Questions over his attitudes on racial discrimination kept him from becoming a federal judge in Alabama in 1986.... Thorough investigations and hearings can help ensure foxes aren't being invited into hen houses."
The questions Jeff Sessions didn't answer | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/10/17)
"As head of our Justice Department, one of the most important duties of the U.S. Attorney General is protecting civil rights, including the right to vote.... Given his past comments and dubious record, Sessions faces a high bar to earn the public's trust. He didn't hurdle it today, by leaving crucial questions unanswered.... He didn't rebut claims that he suggested a white lawyer was a disgrace to his race for representing African-American clients, either. Now, Sessions denies it all.... What matters most are his actions and experience, and on this, too, he's apparently changed his story.... Texas recently passed strict voting laws that have the same discriminatory effect, at least five different courts have found.
How would Sessions respond? It's not enough to say that he cares about civil rights and voting rights, if he has a history of doing little about it."
Editorial Trump’s cabinet nominees need extreme vetting from the Senate, not rubber stamps (Los Angeles Times, 01/10/17)
"Democrats in the Senate are understandably furious that the nominees are being rushed through the confirmation process and insist they won’t receive the searching scrutiny they require....Another reason for greater diligence by the Senate is that some Trump nominees seem uncomfortable with, if not hostile to, the core missions of the departments they have been chosen to administer.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican nominated to be attorney general, for instance, would be responsible for supervising the Civil Rights Division and enforcing what is left of the Voting Rights Act — a law he once suggested was an intrusion on states’ rights (though he voted to extend it in 2006). Civil rights activists are virtually unanimous in fearing that he wouldn’t aggressively vindicate the rights of minorities; the burden is on him to convince the Senate otherwise. He also will, and should, be asked about allegations in 1986 that he had made racially insensitive comments, a factor in the Judiciary Committee’s refusal to recommend him for a federal judgeship."
[Editorial] As Trump Cabinet hearings begin, we need tough questions for Jeff Sessions (Dallas Morning News, 01/10/17)
"The urgent challenge for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where two days of hearings on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama began today, is to decide two things: One, whether Session's zeal to enforce the law will extend to laws he passionately opposed as a senator. And, two, whether he'll have the backbone to challenge the new president should Trump cross constitutional or legal boundaries, as many fear he might. a blandishment about enforcing the law will only go so far. The reality is more complicated. All prosecutors, including the attorney general, have wide discretion about where to spend their investigative and prosecutorial resources. When some laws are inevitably enforced with more zeal than others, it matters where the prosecutor's heart lies. ... 1. Given his strong opposition to President Barack Obama's immigration measures, how will he prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws?
2. How will he act as an independent force within the administration should President-elect Donald Trump or members of his inner circle violate the law?
3. Given his opposition to hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians, and to abortion, how zealously will he prosecute hate crimes and defend abortion rights?"
[Editorial] What’s the hurry on Trump’s Cabinet picks? (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/10/17)
"Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago over racially insensitive comments and has since compiled a hard-line record in the Senate. There are very good reasons why advocacy groups strongly oppose his nomination and why more than 1,100 law professors sent a letter to Congress declaring that Sessions will not promote justice and equality."