He’s called civil rights groups ‘un-American’
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al) / Getty Images
You’re going to be hearing the name Jeff Sessions a lot more. President-elect Donald Trump has formally nominated the Alabama senator to become his Attorney General, beating out other reported finalists like Rudy Giuliani. But the former New York City mayor sounds like a downright progressive when compared with Sessions, who has spent decades openly combating civil rights.
It’s not just that Sessions is bad on race, his deeply flawed legal record of attempting to deny rights to minorities would be empowered exponentially if he becomes Attorney General, giving him large sway over legal questions surrounding immigration and rumored restrictions on Muslims traveling to and from the U.S.
In the past, he’s trashed the Voting Rights Act and even called the NAACP “un-American,” for having “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”
As Slate put it, Sessions is “an outwardly racist, xenophobic, homophobic misogynist—and he will now direct the enforcement of federal civil rights law in the United States.”
As the Washington Post notes, civil rights organizations have already come out in force to loudly voice their opposition to his nomination. With that kind of political pressure, it’s likely nearly, if not all, of the Democrats will vote against his nomination. And if they are able to peel away any of the few remaining moderate Republican senators, Trump’s first high-profile nomination could also be his first major political defeat as president.
For specifics, a 2002 article from The New Republic chronicles some of those troubling examples in Sessions’ record. But nothing stands out more than his when in 1985 he unsuccessfully tried to prosecute the “Marion Three,” a group of African-American civil rights workers whom he accused of voter fraud. Not only did Sessions lose the case, it only took the jury four hours to throw out what was called a case entirely without merit.
Sessions was so tainted by that embarrassing and corrupt effort that his nomination to join the U.S. District Court in Alabama during the Reagan administration was denied by a Republican-controlled Senate.
Yet somehow those setbacks didn’t stop Sessions from experiencing a meteoric political rise in the years that followed. He has been a U.S. Senator for 20 years and was one of Trump’s earliest public backers, singing the praises of Trump’s promises to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Now, with the instant criticism rising into a wave of controversy, it’s unclear if Sessions is a serious pick for Attorney General or a chance to Trump and his team to stir up enough controversy and enthusiasm with his voting base to distract from other potentially more moderate picks and compromises on projects like national infrastructure.