Black law­mak­ers say Ses­sions un­fit to be attorney gen­eral

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS - Mary Clare Jalonick

WASH­ING­TON —Black­law­mak-ers said Wed­nes­day that Sen. Jeff Ses­sions at times has shown hos­til­ity to­ward civil rights, mak­ing him un­fit to be attorney gen­eral, as a 1986 let­ter from the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. sur­faced strongly ex­press­ing op­po­si­tion to the Alabama se­na­tor.

In the sec­ond day of con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Ses­sions’ col­league, and Rep. John Lewis, D- Ga., who was beaten when he marched for civil rights in the 1960s, warned that Ses­sions could move the coun­try back­ward if con­firmed as Don­ald Trump’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

Booker said the “arc of the uni­verse does not just nat­u­rally curve to­ward jus­tice, we must bend it,” and the coun­try needs an attorney gen­eral who is de­ter­mined to bend it.

“Se­na­tor Ses­sions’ record does not speak to that de­sire, in­ten­tion or will,” Booker said, not­ing his op­po­si­tion to over­haul­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and his po­si­tions on other is­sues af­fect­ing mi­nor­ity groups.

Lewis told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that the coun­try needs “some­one who’s go­ing to stand up, speak up and speak out for the peo­ple that need help, the peo­ple who have been dis­crim­i­nated against.”

And Louisiana Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, the chair­man of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, urged sen­a­tors to re­ject Ses­sions’ even­tual nom­i­na­tion be­cause he has “ad­vanced an agenda that will do great harm” to African-Amer­i­cans.

The law­mak­ers’ crit­i­cism echoed Cor­nell Brooks, the head of the NACP, who told the panel ear­lier in the day that the or­ga­ni­za­tion “firmly be­lieves” Ses­sions is un­fit to serve.

The Alabama Repub­li­can was re­jected by the Ju­di­ciary panel in 1986 for a fed­eral judge­ship amid ac­cu­sa­tions that he had called a black attorney “boy” — which he de­nied — and the NACP and ACLU “un-amer­i­can.”

Ses­sions on Tues­day called those ac­cu­sa­tions “damnably false” and said he is “to­tally com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing the free­dom and equal­ity that this coun­try has to pro­vide to every cit­i­zen.”

The law­mak­ers’ tes­ti­mony brought two days of con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for Ses­sions to a close. He has solid sup­port from the Se­nate’s Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity and from some Democrats in con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing states, and is ex­pected to eas­ily win con­fir­ma­tion. But Democrats are us­ing the hear­ings to try to show that Ses­sions — and Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion — won’t be com­mit­ted to civil rights, a chief pri­or­ity of the Jus­tice Depart­ment dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Tues­day, the NAA CP re­leased a 1986 let­ter from Coretta Scott King, widow of the civil rights leader, in which she said that Ses­sions’ ac­tions as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor were “rep­re­hen­si­ble” and that he used his of­fice “in a shabby at­tempt to in­tim­i­date and frighten el­derly black vot­ers.”

“Mr. Ses­sions has used the awe­some power of his of­fice to chill the free ex­er­cise of the vote by black cit­i­zens in the district he now seeks to serve as a fed­eral judge,” Mrs. King wrote. Mrs. King died in 2006.

Rich­mond com­plained dur­ing his tes­ti­mony that putting the all­black panel at the end of the hear­ings was akin to be­ing made to go to the “back of the bus,” a ref­er­ence to 1960s seg­re­ga­tion laws. Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony, many mem­bers of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus sat in the au­di­ence.

Cliff Owen/ AP Photo

Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J. tes­ti­fies on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Wed­nes­day, at the sec­ond day of a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for Attorney Gen­eral-des­ig­nate, Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, R-ala., be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

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