California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Minnesota Senator Al Franken ripped into their fellow senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama during his confirmation hearing for the position of Attorney General of the United States. Senator Sessions has been criticized by opponents for what they believe to be his racist positions.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also got in on the fun.
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President Elect Donald Trump appointed Senator Sessions to the cabinet post in part because he was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
Thirty years ago Jeff Sessions was denied an appointment to the Federal bench made by then President Reagan. The Senate, which was under a Democratic majority at the time, rejected his nomination because it believed that he would not adequately support Civil Rights as a Federal judge.
But this time the Republicans are in the majority in the Senate and Mr. Sessions has served there for twenty years. He is now one of the Senate’s senior members and observers believe that Sessions has gained the respect of his peers who have gotten to know him personally. And the Alabama Senator also asserts that he has tempered his views since his failed bid for the Federal bench.
Senator Feinstein was primarily concerned that as Attorney General Senator Sessions would use the office to go after Hillary Clinton as Donald Trump promised he would do if elected President. Feinstein reminded her fellow Senator that the office must be non-political saying, “An attorney general does not prosecute at direction of the president. The attorney general must put aside loyalty to the president.”
Senator Sessions, however, made it clear to the Senate Judiciary committee that if confirmed he will not allow the President to use the Justice Department as a toll for personal vendettas. Sessions also said that he is not planning on conducting any special investigations into Hillary Clinton.
For my second round of questions for Jeff Sessions, I asked for his views on a proposed Muslim ban, torture & more. https://t.co/KuZCnXtdNN
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) January 10, 2017
On the issues of civil rights and civil liberties the California Senator also expressed the concerns of many saying that, “There is a deep fear about what a Trump administration will bring in many places, and this is the context in which we must consider Sen. Sessions’ record.”
Key point from today's hearing: The attorney general must be independent and fairly enforce federal law. pic.twitter.com/bCTwlQhOIr
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) January 11, 2017
Senator Al Franken accused Jeff Session of lying about his civil rights record, showing that Sessions made false claims about working on three civil rights cases. “Now you originally said that you personally handled three of these cases, but these lawyers say that you had no substantive involvement, ” said Franken when he questioned the nominee.
In response to Sessions’ explanation that his name was listed on case records where he had no actual involvement, Senator Franken said, “I’m not a lawyer. I’m one of the few members of this committee that didn’t get to law school, and usually I get by just fine, but it seems to me a lawyer — if a lawyer has just his name added to a document, he — that lawyer would be misrepresenting his record if he said he was personally handled these cases.”
Franken then cited statements mad by an attorney named Joe Rich who had worked on one of these cases. When Senator Sessions said that he did not know Mr. Rich, Senator Franken said, “One of the cases that you listed was a case that Mr. Rich handled. If you don’t know him, it’s hard for me to believe that you personally handled it.”
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal opened with the remark, “I think that the attorney general of the United States has a unique and special role. He’s not just another government lawyer, another cabinet secretary, he is the nation’s lawyer.”
Blumenthal was concerned with his colleague’s strong opposition to abortion rights and that the anti-abortion group Operation rescue, which applauded the murder of an abortion doctor, had endorsed Senator Sessions’ nomination. He asked the Alabama Senator to disavow the group and Sessions said, “a group that would even suggest that is unacceptable. I will enforce the laws that make clear a person who wants to receive a lawful abortion cannot be blocked by protesters and disruption of a doctor’s practice.”
“I’m not in favor of [abortions], but we’ve settled on some laws that are clearly effective and as attorney general you can be sure we would follow them.”
Blumenthal also questioned Sessions about his positions on gun control and possible conflicts of interest which could arise because of Donald Trump’s businesses.
Later he said, “Senator Sessions has yet to convince me that he will be a real champion and zealous advocate for civil rights and liberties and a protector of women’s health care and religious freedoms.”
Senators Al Franken, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal will certainly vote against confirming Jeff Sessions as the next Attorney General of the United States. But they will surely be disappointed as there do not seem to be enough Republicans who will vote against Sessions and thereby reject his appointment.