Editorials and Opinion
Alabama doesn't send her best people to Washington (AL.com [AL], 12/20/16)
Guest Voices by Amy Smith: The bigotry and willful ignorance of Alabama's elected leadership is once again in the national spotlight with president elect Trump's choice for Attorney General of the United States, US Senator from Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.... Appointing Sessions as US Attorney General has real consequences because it weakens the federal wall of protection that stands between the worst of our elected public officials and the citizens whose civil rights they seek to abridge.
As Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions used the voting rights act of 1965 to prosecute those who registered black voters. He fought to protect the financial segregation of Alabama's public schools. As a U.S. Senator, Sessions voted against extending basic civil rights to LGBT people. He has publicly supported and voted for allowing the torture of people who are held in the custody of the US government. He voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
Why does Sessions think the police should be able to legally rob you? (Examiner, 12/19/16)
Johnny Kampis, contributor: President-elect Trump has selected Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be his attorney general. Sessions defended civil asset forfeiture during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic in 2015....Sessions' attitude worries reform advocates like Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which has defended numerous people trying to get their seized property back.... Johnson is hopeful questioners will delve into the topic of civil asset forfeiture during those hearings. It's an important topic, as Sessions' actions as attorney general could dial back many of the positive reforms that have been made to slow down "policing for profit."
"Sessions needs to be asked what he will do as attorney general about civil asset forfeiture," Johnson said. "His answers are important."
Trump is just the latest obstacle on the zigzagging course of racial progress (Guardian News and Media, 12/19/16)
Opinion by Margaret Burnham: So bloody was the campaign that ultimately returned black people to near-slavery that one writer, Nicholas Lemann, described the redemption period, from 1876 to the mid-1890s, as the last battle of the civil war. I remind you of this because the president-elect’s selection of Jeff Sessions as attorney general suggests, perhaps more than any other appointment, that the redeemers have once again triumphed.... The prospect that the combined voice of a Sessions justice department and an altered supreme court may cut deeply into legal protections upon which minorities have relied since the civil rights movement deserves close analysis. Far more frightening, however, is the real possibility that the current regime will usher in an era of sustained political violence, reminiscent, in purpose if not precisely in kind, of what was experienced in the original redemption.
What will government transparency look like under Trump? (Think Progress, 12/19/16)
Aysha Khan: "in the end, like a number of Republicans who had spoken in favor of disclosure, Sessions voted against the Democratic bill that aimed to increase campaign finance disclosure. Sessions has also voted against a federal shield law to protect journalists’ confidential sources. And that FOIA reform bill discussed earlier? Sessions single-handedly put a hold on it twice, apparently as a result of lobbying from the Department of Justice."
The Proven Perils of Rolling the Dice on Trump (Huffington Post, 12/18/16)
Janai S. Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.: For United States Attorney General, the chief law enforcer in the country, Mr. Trump has promised to nominate Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama and fast-track his appointment. Sessions first rose to national prominence because his nomination to a federal judgeship was withdrawn amid evidence of extreme racial animus and bias. Sessions joined the Senate in 1997, where he continued to build his long record of standing in vehement opposition to civil rights and equality. Just this year, Sessions publicly praised a 1980s Trump ad that called for the execution of the Central Park Five—five African-American young men who were fully exonerated five years ago. These are teens who spent nearly two decades in jail for a crime they did not commit, yet, Sessions still believes in 2016 that calling for their execution in 1989 was praise-worthy. This is on top of his opposition to critical protections for Americans like voting rights, pay equity, and hate crime enhancements.
Jeff Sessions’ nomination is as much a threat to our democracy and dog whistle to political extremists within our borders as the discussion of creating a Muslim registry based on the same legal precedent used during World War II to establish Japanese internment camps. Moreover, misrepresentations and omissions in his response last week to the questionnaire that the Senate requires of all nominees underscore that Mr. Sessions lacks sufficient hands-on legal experience, possesses an abysmal record on civil rights, and is unlikely to exercise and independence from the president-elect who enters the Oval Office mired in legal troubles and conflicts of interest.
Trump’s most dangerous cabinet pick (Eureka Times-Standard [CA], 12/17/16)
Marge Baker, column: Sessions has challenged the 14th Amendment’s unambiguous promise that people born in our country are U.S. citizens. ... In a similar vein, after Trump suggested a blatantly unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States, Sessions defended him, saying it’s “appropriate to begin to discuss this.” Sessions also has a shameful record on voting rights, one of our most critical constitutional rights as Americans. As a federal prosecutor, he led a witch hunt against black organizers helping to register African-American seniors, threatening three organizers with 100-year sentences. Later, as a senator, he applauded the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, .... Perhaps most disturbing, Sessions voted against a prohibition on torture
What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People (New York Times, 12/17/16)
Opinion by Michael Eric Dyson: his pick of Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general — a man who according to testimony before Congress once joked that the only problem with the K.K.K. was the group’s drug use, deemed a white lawyer with black clients a race traitor and dismissed civil rights groups as “un-American” — proves Mr. Trump cares little for the interests of the African-American citizens he will serve in the Oval Office.
Spotlight: Catholics should condemn Trump cabinet picks (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 12/17/16)
Aaron Schaidle & 22 others: With the election of Donald Trump, many of us fear that some of the rhetoric and proposed policies of his administration will endanger our livelihoods and families. Most concerning are some of the advisers and cabinet members he has selected to guide his actions .... Sen. Sessions, the president's pick for attorney general, has a history of racist remarks that were deemed so severe he was denied an appointment to the federal bench in Alabama under President Reagan.... In the spirit of that moral teaching, as we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we ask our educational and religious leaders to take the following actions: ... Personally contact our U.S. senators to ask that they vehemently oppose the nomination of Sen. Sessions to the Office of Attorney General
Trump's high-wire act (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 12/17/16)
Joseph Sabino Mistick: His unconventional nominees seem calculated to shock, and a glaring conflict of interest, once a disqualifier, appears to be an asset for most top jobs.
One high-risk nominee is U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. In 1986, Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan and rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate after testimony indicated that he was a racist.
Since then, Sessions has opposed the safeguards of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and called for a ban on Muslims. His nomination has been enthusiastically embraced by white supremacists.
Donald Trump’s cast of contrarians (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 12/16/16)
John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor: No president-elect in modern times has assembled a Cabinet of more members whose backgrounds suggest they are openly hostile to the core missions of the federal agencies they are being tapped to lead....Department of Justice Trump’s choice: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. His history: The Senate rejected his 1986 bid for a federal judgeship over accusations of racism. He has been a harsh critic of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (“intrusive legislation”) and has resisted attempts to ease draconian drug laws. The attorney general will play a key role in deciding whether to continue the Obama administration’s noninterference with states’ legalization. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said last year.
The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire and Confirmation Hearings: Nominee Sessions Differs from Senator Sessions (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/15/16)
Kyle Barry: A memo released yesterday by a number of organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), revealed gaping holes in Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’s response to his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) that preclude the Judiciary Committee from holding a thorough and complete hearing on his nomination. This finding also revealed that, as a nominee, Sessions apparently takes the SJQ far less seriously than he does as a Senator tasked with assessing nominees and that he is unwilling to hold himself to the same standard to which he holds other nominees who appear before the Committee.... The Senate should not take shortcuts when evaluating the nominee for the top law enforcement position in the country and should instead collect and review all required material before setting a timeline for hearings.
In Senator Sessions’s view, “maintaining the integrity of the Committee’s constitutional advise and consent responsibilities more than justifies such a request.”
Why Senators Must Put the Brakes on Sessions’ AG Nomination (Huffington Post, 12/15/16)
Nan Aron: representatives for several civil rights organizations pored over Sessions’ questionnaire and appendices and came up with potentially hundreds of blatant omissions.... for the Judiciary Committee to do anything less than delay the confirmation schedule and get adequate information from the nominee, with ample time for review, would abdicate its responsibility."
Sessions' SJQ "Woefully Inadequate": Groups Call for Delay in Hearing Schedule (People For blog, 12/14/16)
The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) submitted by Sen. Jeff Sessions as a prerequisite for his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Attorney General lacks hundreds of entries that should have been included and is woefully inadequate in its current form, according to a number of organizations that have examined the publicly available document and its appendices. We agree with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who just yesterday expressed concern about the incompleteness of the SJQ, and are deeply disturbed by Senator Grassley's insistence that the hearings go forward on such a rushed schedule.
Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality.
She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts.
During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American.
That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.
Block Jeff Sessions for Attorney General (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/12/16)
Guest Post by Erwin Chemerinsky: The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting race discrimination in voting, employment, housing and policing. Nothing in Sessions’ career offers hope that he would be other than a disaster in doing so.... The Justice Department, through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, plays a key role in enforcing federal environmental laws. Here, too, Sessions has a terrible record.
The Last Thing We Need Is a Fact-Free Attorney General (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 12/12/16)
Andrew Cohen: In October 2015, for example, he delivered a speech against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act ... much of the rhetoric Sessions used to justify his opposition to the bill was untethered to objective fact.
Should Democrats become the 'Party of No?': Dick Polman (PennLive [PA], 12/12/16)
"Senate Democrats can set the tone by putting Trump's Cabinet picks through the wringer, because a number of them deserve to be seriously slow-walked ---- most notably, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions (rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, due to his racist remarks),... Fortunately, Democrats are indeed vowing to combat those nominees."
Trump's hard-right lurch could lead to his demise | Moran (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 12/11/16)
By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Scott Pruitt, his pick for the EPA, loves the smell of burning coal and would free power plants to spew all the carbon they want, free of charge. Americans disagree by margin of 2-1....Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is big on mass incarceration as the best way to fight the drug war. Most Americans now regard that as folly as well.
Sessions reminds me of the generals in World War I who kept sending soldiers into machine-gun fire, long after the tactic was a proven failure. He has the same kind of fossilized brain, one that is immune to new evidence.
Trump is creating a Bizarro World with Cabinet picks (Chicago Tribune, 12/09/16)
Clarence Page, column: I can't leave out Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and tough critic of the Voting Rights Act tapped by Trump to be attorney general — a move that, aided by a Republican Congress, puts him in an excellent position to launch a Reconstruction-style collapse of civil rights enforcement with the enthusiasm of a fox guarding a henhouse.
Trump nominee will politicize Dept. of Justice (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 12/09/16)
Walter Brasch, Opinion column: With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there is every probability that there will be an overhaul of career staff who are apolitical, of the prosecution of certain crimes at the expense of other crimes, and the refusal to pursue many civil rights violations.
Justice Demands We Stop Jeff Sessions: Sessions can't be trusted to be America's top law enforcement official. (U.S. News & World Report, 12/07/16)
Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance: Sessions' record shows he's likely to escalate the war on drugs by undermining civil rights, stifling state-level marijuana reforms that have drastically reduced arrests in communities of color and rolling back much of the progress in policing and criminal justice reform made by the Obama administration.... When it comes to drug policy reform, Senator Sessions has nearly single-handedly blocked bipartisan sentencing reform and has been unduly critical of the Justice Department's use of consent decrees that force local police departments to address police brutality, racial profiling and other civil rights issues. Moreover, he supports civil asset forfeiture, the process by which police can take people's money and property and keep it for themselves without having to convict anyone of a crime. He opposes granting formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote. (Felony disenfranchisement laws have deprived millions of the right to vote, including 30 percent of black men in the Deep South.)
Sessions recently said that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and has attacked the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws.
Maine Voices: Attorney general nominee failed to grasp author’s point on Supreme Court confirmations; Sen. Jefferson Sessions' misinterpretation of the premise in a 2002 speech casts doubt on his ability to serve as attorney general. (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 12/07/16)
Opinion by JOHN MASSARO: Years ago, a colleague alerted me that conservative Republican Sen. Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions of Alabama – the man now nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next attorney general – had cited me in a May 9, 2002, Senate speech.
I soon learned that Sessions had, indeed, referred to my 1990 book, “Supremely Political: The Role of Ideology and Presidential Management in Unsuccessful Supreme Court Nominations.”... I do, however, protest his manipulative use of my book to support his argument.
In “Supremely Political,” after examining all Supreme Court nominations made through 1990, I clearly conclude just the opposite of what Sessions has alleged. ... I can only conclude that his palpable and likely self-serving misrepresentation of my work occurred for one of several reasons.
He never really read “Supremely Political.” He read it but erred seriously in understanding what I was saying. He read it and understood its conclusions but, nonetheless, decided to cherry-pick a small part that supposedly supported his preconceived position and conveniently misinterpreted or ignored the rest to further his own political agenda.
If any one of these is correct, he has disqualified himself as a nominee for attorney general because he cannot effectively read, understand and present the essence of a straightforward political argument.
Democrats Have Questions. Elizabeth Warren Has Answers. (Bloomberg News, 12/05/16)
Francis Wilkinson column: Democrats have two set arenas in which to highlight, and constrain, the GOP agenda. The first is Senate hearings to confirm Trump cabinet appointees, from whom they must secure commitments to democratic norms and the rule of law. Nominees should also be required to state whether the world is round or flat. For example, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions should state, for the record, whether the FBI's statistics or Trump's distortions about the crime rate are accurate. The hearings are an opportunity to bolster facts and undermine propaganda.
Environmental Community Takes A Stand Against Hate (Defenders of Wildlife Blog, 12/05/16)
"Just as Defenders of Wildlife will always ensure wildlife has a voice – so too must we speak up in solidarity for civil rights, social justice and an environment of inclusivity. I am proud to list Defenders of Wildlife as one of 26 organizations that signed this letter to President-Elect Trump on behalf of the environmental community, and all of the people – and wildlife – who are a part of it. Thank you for standing with us. -Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife [letter concludes "we demand that all his nominees and appointees honor fundamental civil rights and embody civility befitting the offices for which they have been selected. Therefore, we call on the President-elect to rescind the appointment of Steven Bannon as Chief Strategic Advisor and withdraw the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General to signify his move to represent all equally and protect the rights of all people."]
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: How boycotts could help sway Trump; We all have a responsibility to stand up for our values. (Washington Post, 12/01/16)
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Finally, the most toxic and symptomatic advisers, Stephen K. Bannon and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions is Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general, even though his nomination to the federal bench was torpedoed 30 years ago over accusations of racism. He’s also been accused of retaliating against two black officials whom he believed interfered with that nomination. Those two men accused him of referring to one of them as the n-word, while Sessions’s black deputy in the U.S. attorney’s office said Sessions called him “boy,” and warned him to be careful how he spoke to white people. He was also accused during those 1986 Senate hearings of calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “un-American.”
Senate should block Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general: Erwin Chemerinsky (Los Angeles Daily News [CA], 11/30/16)
"It is unconscionable to put Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions in charge of federal civil rights and federal environmental enforcement. Sessions repeatedly has shown that he is at the extreme right in these areas and he should not be the attorney general of the United States. Although it would take political courage to stand up to the newly elected president, pressure should be placed on moderate Republicans to join Democratic senators in denying confirmation to Sessions."