Trump’s pick for at­tor­ney gen­eral op­poses ban on Mus­lims

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: Don­ald Trump’s can­di­date for at­tor­ney gen­eral Tues­day said he op­posed ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States and, tak­ing a tougher stance than the pres­i­dent-elect, said wa­ter­board­ing is tor­ture and il­le­gal.

Re­pub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jeff Ses­sions, the nom­i­nee, re­sponded to ques­tions at a Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, the first in a se­ries this week for nom­i­nees to serve in the Cab­i­net once Trump en­ters the White House on Jan. 20.

Pro­test­ers charg­ing Ses­sions has a poor record on hu­man rights in­ter­rupted the pro­ceed­ings sev­eral times.

Dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign, Trump said wa­ter­board­ing was an ef­fec­tive in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique, and vowed to bring it back and “a hell of a lot worse.”

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion came un­der fire when in­tel­li­gence agen­cies used the method which sim­u­lates the sen­sa­tion of drown­ing. More re­cently Trump has said re­tired Marine Corps Gen. James Mat­tis, his nom­i­nee for sec­re­tary of de­fense, had per­sua­sively ar­gued against it.

Asked if wa­ter­board­ing con­sti­tuted tor­ture, Ses­sions said Congress has since passed leg­is­la­tion mak­ing it “ab­so­lutely im­proper and il­le­gal to use wa­ter­board­ing or any other form of tor­ture.” His stance that the law clearly bans wa­ter­board­ing could pose a prob­lem for Trump if he tries to re­in­state the prac­tice.

Ses­sions said he would not sup­port ban­ning any­one from the U.S. on the ba­sis of re­li­gion, and said Trump’s in­ten­tions were to block peo­ple com­ing from coun­tries har­bor­ing ter­ror­ists, not all Mus­lims.

Dur­ing his cam­paign, Trump at one point pro­posed a tem­po­rary ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try.

Ses­sions also said he would re­cuse him­self from in­ves­ti­gat­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email prac­tices and char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion if con­firmed as at­tor­ney gen­eral, and he would fa­vor the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor for any such in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ses­sions, 70, be­came the first sit­ting sen­a­tor to en­dorse Trump for the pres­i­dency in early 2016, and has re­mained an ad­viser on is­sues such as im­mi­gra­tion. He is be­ing re­viewed by the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, a panel on which he serves, and is widely ex­pected to be con­firmed by the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate.

Ses­sions said he agreed with Trump in op­pos­ing Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion that granted tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion to im­mi­grant chil­dren brought to the coun­try il­le­gally by their par­ents and would not op­pose over­turn­ing it.

Ses­sions also said he agreed with many of his fel­low Re­pub­li­cans that the mil­i­tary prison for for­eign ter­ror­ism sus­pects in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba re­main open. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought to close the prison, opened by former

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in 2002.

Ses­sions sev­eral times de­fended him­self against charges of racism. He said al­le­ga­tions that he har­bored sym­pa­thies to­ward the Ku Klux Klan, a vi­o­lent white-su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tion, are false. “I ab­hor the Klan and what it rep­re­sents and its hate­ful ide­ol­ogy,” Ses­sions said in his open­ing re­marks.

Among the pro­test­ers who dis­rupted the hear­ing were two men wear­ing KKK cos­tumes and a woman wear­ing a pink crown. As Capi­tol Po­lice took the men wear­ing white hoods and sheets out of the Se­nate hear­ing room, they yelled, “You can’t ar­rest me, I am white!” and, “White peo­ple own this gov­ern­ment!” They held up hand signs say­ing, “Go Jeffie Boy!”

Ses­sions was de­nied con­fir­ma­tion to a fed­eral judge­ship in 1986 af­ter al­le­ga­tions emerged that he made racist re­marks, in­clud­ing tes­ti­mony that he called an African-Amer­i­can pros­e­cu­tor “boy,” an al­le­ga­tion Ses­sions de­nied.

Ses­sions has op­posed abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage as a sen­a­tor, but said Tues­day that if con­firmed as at­tor­ney gen­eral he would fol­low the Supreme Court rul­ings that le­gal­ized both abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral is the coun­try’s top pros­e­cu­tor and le­gal ad­viser to the pres­i­dent. As head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the at­tor­ney gen­eral also over­sees the im­mi­gra­tion court sys­tem that de­cides whether im­mi­grants are de­ported or granted asy­lum or some other kind of pro­tec­tion. –

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