Editorials and Opinion
Jeff Sessions is wrong for attorney general; he should be rejected (Dallas Morning News, 01/11/17)
Michael A. Lindenberger, Editorial Writer: The Senate should reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general of the United States. He's manifestly the wrong person to hold that job at this time. ... His views mark him as a man of the past, and this country can't afford to turn back the clock on voting rights, hate crimes, immigration, or criminal justice reform. ... His unqualified support for law enforcement is a problem. ... Sessions supported the use of torture. ... Sessions has weakened voting rights.
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: 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: 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: 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."
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS FROM SESSIONS’S FIRST DAY (New Yorker, 01/11/17)
Amy Davidson: Sessions was denied confirmation as a federal judge, in 1986, with, as I’ve written before, good reason.... Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, who repeatedly asked Sessions what he meant when he said “extreme views” might keep people out of America, may have come closest to getting Sessions to acknowledge that, as she put it, “religious views would be a factor,” as cloaked as the discussion was in talk of “extreme vetting” and keeping out people from “dangerous areas.”
It's impossible to heal the nation with Sessions as AG (The Hill, 01/11/17)
Jose Calderon, Hispanic Federation: Sessions's entire public career — as a U.S. attorney, a state attorney general and most recently as a U.S. senator — has been characterized by an unabashed hostility toward civil rights. What's more, Sessions has a troubling and well-chronicled history of expressing views that reflect racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments.... At nearly every turn in his more than four decades in politics and in the courts, Sessions has failed to demonstrate any interest in protecting the most vulnerable among us.
As A Congressman, Here Are 5 Questions I’d Ask Senator Jeff Sessions (Huffington Post, 01/11/17)
Rep. Jared Polis: I find Sen. Sessions’s history of dangerous biases against minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations deeply troubling. His biases appear in his attempts to repeal basic, humane immigration programs and aid for low-income families. In addition, he continually attempts to impede on states’ rights, especially with regard to marijuana.
These biases arguably cost him a federal judgeship, and if he’s unfit to serve on the federal bench, he’s certainly unfit to serve as Attorney General. The nomination of Sen. Sessions would be a direct threat to American liberties
Lessons from Cory Booker and John Lewis: They bore witness, in the truest sense, to Jeff Sessions' confirmation. (Esquire, 01/11/17)
CHARLES P. PIERCE: Booker went over and sat in a witness chair and gave, well, witness.... John Lewis, who sat next to Booker and put his considerable history on the line with no other motivation than to testify, in the truest and fullest sense of that church-bound word.... after listening to people try to pose Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, and after hearing Sessions himself argue that when he called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive," he meant it as a compliment, then even a futile truth is preferable to an effective fraud.
There's a reason why they call it "bearing" witness. It's a burden you volunteer to carry.
Jones: We can't let racism erase the legacy of Barack Obama (Philadelphia Daily News [PA], 01/11/17)
Solomon Jones: the first black president said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, only hours after an alleged racist reintroduced himself in his bid to become the nation's next attorney general....Obama is a black man who dared to look to the future, and Sessions is a white man who looks to be a relic of the past.... If Sessions can cheer on the bigoted statements of Trump now, Sessions won't mete out colorblind justice later.
In the wake of the racial progress that Obama's presidency represented, Sessions represents a return to America's original sin of racism.
Jeff Sessions Fights for Racist Outcomes. Who Cares What’s in His Heart? (Slate.com, 01/11/17)
Jamelle Bouie: As the NAACP Legal Defense Fund details in its report on the Alabama lawmaker, “An unrelenting hostility toward civil rights and racial justice has been the defining feature of Jeff Sessions’ professional life.” ... as Pema Levy shows for Mother Jones, Sessions was instrumental in keeping black judges off the federal bench in his state of Alabama. ... This continued under President Obama, with Sessions opposing Obama’s picks for the five vacant district judgeships in Alabama, as well as the open seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Sessions confirmed that he still opposes an effort to make sentencing reform retroactive for drug offenders imprisoned under the now-defunct 100-to-1 crack-cocaine disparity. ... In another exchange, Sessions all but disparaged efforts to investigate police departments with patterns of abuse and discrimination.... If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short. If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short.
Booker does right for civil rights by challenging Sessions | Opinion (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/11/17)
Guest Columnist Thomas V. O'Neil: A number of my fellow attorneys and I confronted this situation in 1972 working in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Nixon-Mitchell regime. We chose to resign in protest and to try to call as much attention as we could to the perversion of justice in pursuit of political gain.... His own testimony indicated that he inflated both the number of civil rights cases and his role in those cases as the U.S. Attorney for Alabama in the 1980s.... These apparent exaggerations of the record before the committee alone should be disqualifying.... The parallels to the Nixon years are clear. The dangers would be overwhelming with Sessions in charge of law enforcement ... He was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986. He should be rejected once again.
[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).
[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.
Jeff Sessions Won’t ‘Commit’ to Letting You Smoke Pot — Even Where It’s Legal Under State Law (New York Magazine, 01/10/17)
Ed Kilgore: How will this zealous soldier in the War on Drugs deal with state laws legalizing marijuana?
We still don’t really know the answer, because Sessions endorsed two principles that are in conflict. ... I suppose that means Sessions believes he should go right ahead and prosecute people in the “legalized pot” states for violating federal law, but isn’t sure it is worth the trouble. ... Nobody should want their personal freedom to depend on Jeff Sessions’s idea of the best way to allocate prosecutorial resources.
The Senate should “just say no” to Jeff Sessions (Volokh Conspiracy, 01/10/17)
Ilya Somin: the Senate should indeed reject this nomination. It should borrow a slogan from Sessions’ beloved War on Drugs and “just say no.”
Liberals are not the only ones with good reason to oppose Sessions. His record should also trouble libertarians, conservatives, and others who care about protecting liberty, constitutional federalism, and property rights.... Sessions is one of the leading advocates of asset forfeiture, the law enforcement practice of seizing the property of suspects who have often not even been charged with any crime .... Sessions’ longtime role as an extreme drug warrior is also troubling. ... In addition to being one of the Senate’s most extreme drug warriors, Sessions is also perhaps its leading supporter of mass deportations and immigration restrictionism, going well beyond many other Republicans. Such measures pose a serious threat to the liberty of native-born Americans as well as immigrants.... also likely to undermine constitutional federalism ... liberals, libertarians, and conservative advocates of property rights and federalism should join together in opposing Sessions.
[Editorial] Senators must press Jeff Sessions for answers during hearings (Anniston Star [AL] , 01/10/17)
"We suggest senators focus on the Trump videotape episode from October, particularly Sessions’ defense of the indefensible.... Trump brings a load of financial entanglements that clash with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against a president receiving compensation from foreign governments. ... Trump has promised retaliation against members of the news media he dislikes, the First Amendment be damned. ... The Putin government’s deep meddling into the 2016 presidential election is a sore subject for Trump ...However, Sessions needs to promise to follow where the facts and the law lead him.... We encourage senators to press Sessions on these and other potential constitutional conflicts brought on by Trump’s behavior.
The next attorney general must be prepared to defy these unconstitutional whims. In short, he must act as if the Constitution and U.S. citizens are his boss."
[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."
Bloomberg View Editorial Board: Questions for Jeff Sessions (Bloomberg News, 01/10/17)
"On immigration, illegal and otherwise, Sessions has been a critic. ... How would Sessions recommend that the Trump administration police abuses without shutting off access to talent?... How does he plan to proceed -- and how will he protect the due-process rights of those already in the U.S.?... undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. ... What moral, economic or legal goal is advanced by deporting them?...Does he have a strategy to reverse the Obama administration's policy of ignoring states where marijuana cultivation and use is permitted? If not, how does he intend to prosecute a crime that is endorsed by a growing number of states?
Last, and arguably most important, is the issue of voting rights. ... How does Sessions propose to extend that protection? ... before voting they should demand clear answers to these and other questions."
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."
Jeff Sessions' support of asset forfeiture should concern you (Conservative Review, 01/10/17)
Commentary By Logan Albright: I’m talking about the issue of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officers to seize property from those suspected of committing a crime .... Sessions has been a vocal defender of this practice .... but a cornerstone of American justice has always been “innocent until proven guilty.” When someone’s property is seized in this way, they usually never get it back, even if they are exonerated or never brought to trial.... Sessions needs to address his past support for civil asset forfeiture and other policies that concern the rights of the very citizens he will protect.
Sessions Offers Unclear, Useless Answers on Marijuana During Confirmation Hearing: Says he won’t commit “to never enforcing federal law” but that doesn't tell us much of anything. (Reason.com, 01/10/17)
Eric Boehm: we got vague and unconvincing answers about how Sessions views the relationship between the states and the federal government.... Sessions would have tremendous power as attorney general to decide exactly what "enforce laws effectively as we are able" means. Without needing approval from Congress, Sessions could send federal agents to arrest growers, shut down dispensaries, and freeze the bank accounts of marijuana businesses.... his decisions on marijuana policy could have huge implications for individuals and businesses in states where forms of marijuana have been legalized .... That's why we need to hear more specifics from Sessions about how he would approach the question of marijuana federalism.
[Editorial] Jeff Sessions draws a line between himself and Donald Trump (Newsday [NY], 01/10/17)
"Pressing the Alabama Republican on the inherent conflicts of the job is particularly important because he will be serving a president who has not demonstrated any deep understanding of the Consitution or how the nation’s legal system works. The results were disappointing."
Joseph Cohen: WV must ensure that Jeff Sessions is right for the job (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 01/10/17)
"As an elected official, first Alabama attorney general and now U.S. senator, Sessions has been an outspoken critic of many legislative attempts to protect minorities’ civil rights. He has consistently challenged the need for governmental intervention under the Voting Rights Act and he has opposed expansion of hate crimes legislation to cover disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.... A hardliner on immigration, Senator Sessions has not just targeted undocumented immigrants, he has sought to dramatically reduce legal immigration and end birthright citizenship, as required by the 14th Amendment.
Because of the attorney general’s control over numerous law enforcement agencies, it is vital that anyone holding that post view the constitutional limitations on governmental intrusion into our privacy as a sacred, inviolable obligation. Senator Sessions has repeatedly sought to expand the federal surveillance apparatus."
[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: Tit-for-tat politics in our statesman-less land (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 01/10/17)
"Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Asked recently about promised Democratic attempts to block any Supreme Court nominee of President Trump's, McConnell responded without so much as a wink to let us know he was in on his own hypocrisy. "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," he said. "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."... If there's a "new standard" regarding Supreme Court nominees, it's because McConnell himself saw to it with Obama nominee Merrick Garland, whose chances expired last week without the McConnell- and GOP-led Senate holding so much as a single hearing on him. Obviously Americans "tolerated" that. The real question is whether they should continue to "tolerate" McConnell's willful amnesia, as it's not the first time."
Sessions should not be attorney general: Alabama law prof (USA Today, 01/10/17)
John P. Gross: My decision to publicly oppose his nomination is not based on racially insensitive remarks he may have made 30 years ago, but rather because of the policies he has repeatedly endorsed — policies that won’t promote public safety and won’t protect our civil rights.... Sessions believes in widespread voter fraud despite the lack of evidence that it occurs. He has endorsed strict voter identification laws, which have been shown to keep eligible voters away from the polls. He has called the National Voting Rights Act “intrusive legislation”... He is skeptical of climate change but would oversee the Environment and Natural Resource Division. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act but would oversee the Office of Violence Against Women.
Questions for Jeff Sessions (Washington Post, 01/10/17)
Opinion by Radley Balko: Federal judge Alex Kozinksi, a Reagan appointee, has called prosecutor misconduct an epidemic. Do you still feel that this is an issue concocted by defense attorneys? ... Can you name three examples in which you think a prosecutor abused his or her authority or engaged in misconduct? ... you have criticized nominees for government positions for, as you put it, “defending terrorists.” Do you believe that everyone facing criminal charges by U.S. prosecutors has the right to a vigorous defense — paid for by the government, if necessary? ... Do you think the libel laws should be changed as they apply to public figures?... Can you reconcile your support for property rights with your support for allowing law enforcement to take property without ever having to prove in court that the owner did anything wrong? ... Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization....