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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee took place on January 11-12, approximately one week before Trump takes office. The attorney general nominee was grilled profusely by the opposition party. Here are 10 of their best takedowns:

1. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) opened the hearing by reminding the room that “as attorney general, [Sessions] will not be asked to advocate for his beliefs, but to advocate for the law … even if he disagrees with the president … most importantly, his job will be to enforce federal law equally—equally—for all Americans.”

The Judiciary ranking Democrat also questioned Sessions on his anti-abortion views, turning to Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt.

2. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) confronted Sessions on issues such as criminal justice and immigration reform. Durbin urged Sessions to consider the 800,000 Dreamers who fear deportation under a Trump administration.

“You said ‘I believe in following the law, there is too much focus on people who are here illegally and not enough on the law,'” Durbin announced. “Senator Sessions, there’s not a spot of evidence in your public career to suggest that as attorney general you would use the authority of that office to resolve the challenges of our broken immigration system in a fair and humane manner. Tell me I’m wrong.”

3. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has worked on several pieces of legislation with Sessions, brought up the nominee’s record on voting rights, which Sessions has spent the majority of his career opposing.

“You previously called the Voting Rights Act ‘an intrusive piece of legislation’ and I wondered if you could explain that,” she said.

4. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pressed Sessions on his endorsements, particularly those of Operation Rescue and conservative think tank president David Horowitz.

“You gave a speech praising a man named David Horowitz as a man… [you said you] admire,” Blumenthal said, before rattling off several of Horowitz’s most incendiary remarks.

“Horowitz has said among other things that ‘All the major Muslim organizations in America are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood’ and ’80 percent of the mosques are filled with hate against Jews’… ‘Too many blacks are in prison because too many blacks commit crimes.'”

Blumenthal then revealed that the statement regarding Sessions’ admiration for Horowitz was omitted from his response to the committee. He then asked if Sessions was “embarrassed” about the endorsement of a man he once praised as “brilliant.”

5. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) grilled Sessions on the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump made lewd remarks on women alluding to sexual assault.

“Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent, is that sexual assault?” Leahy asked Sessions, referring to Trump’s comment about “grabbing” women “by the pussy” “when you’re a star.”

“I just start kissing them, don’t even wait,” Trump had said on the tape.

6. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wanted to know how Sessions would approach environmental legislation. Would the attorney general use “real facts and real science” or stick with Republicans’ standard denial of climate change?

“In making a decision about the facts of climate change, to whom will you turn?” Whitehouse asked.

7. Senato Al Franken (D-MN) discussed Trump’s questionable sources of information, including the president-elect’s long-held belief that “millions” voted illegally.

“Senator Sessions, does it concern you that our future commander-in-chief is so much more willing to accept what Julian Assange says, instead of the conclusions of our intelligence agencies, and why do you think President Trump finds Assange trustworthy?”

8. NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, who was arrested during a sit-in at Sessions’ Senate office in Mobile last week, spoke of the attorney general’s obligation to heal racial divisions, prosecute hate crimes and end racially motivated voter suppression.

“The NAACP firmly believes that Senator Sessions is unfit to serve as attorney general,” Brooks reiterated.

9. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) also pointed to Sessions’ opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. According to Booker, Sessions’ record does not indicate he is best for defending the rights of America’s most vulnerable.

“I am literally sitting here because of people, marchers in Alabama and volunteer lawyers in New Jersey, who saw it as their affirmative duty to pursue justice to fight discrimination to stand up for those who are marginalized,” Booker said.

10. Rep. John Lewis began his statement with his own personal story about growing up in Alabama not far from where Sessions was raised.

“There was no way to escape or deny the choke hold of discrimination,” Lewis said. “The forces of law and order in Alabama were so strong that to take a stand against this injustice, we had to be willing to sacrifice our lives for the cause.”

Lewis’ legacy is cemented in his activism to uphold the legislation that Sessions spent his own lifetime fighting.

“It took massive, well-organized nonviolent descent for the Voting Rights Act to become law, required criticism of this great nation and its laws to move toward a greater sense of equality,” Lewis explained.

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

IMAGE: Senate Democratic Women to Outline How Women are More Burdened by Student Loan Debt, in Part Due to the Gender Wage Gap (Senate Democrats/Flickr)

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