Sessions hearing will not be delayed, Grassley says
Feinstein raises concern over amount of time to review documents.
Sen. Chuck Grassley says he will not delay the scheduled confirmation hearing of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, dismissing accusations that the materials submitted by the Alabama Republican senator are both “incomplete” and too voluminous to review by Jan. 10.
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman responded Wednesday to concerns raised by Sen. Dianne Feinstein about the amount of time officials will have to review documents Mr. Sessions has submitted as part of the nomination questionnaire.
A coalition of civil rights groups also has pushed for a delay, saying the submitted material “lacks hundreds of entries that should have been included and is woefully inadequate in its current form.”
Ms. Feinstein said the more than 150,000 pages of documents submitted by Mr. Sessions is far more than the 1,500 pages submitted for review by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch or the 5,100 pages submitted by former Attorney General Eric Holder. She requested the date of the hearing be pushed back to allow adequate time for review.
“I am sure you would agree that staff must have sufficient time to do the due diligence on any nominee for this vital position — and this due diligence will likely take longer than the review for recent, prior nominees who had less materials to analyze,” the California Democrat wrote this week to Mr. Grassley.
But noting Mr. Sessions’ nearly two decades in the Senate, his time as a U.S. attorney in Alabama and his tenure as the state’s attorney general, Mr. Grassley said many of the documents produced are speeches and writings that have been publicly available — including Senate floor speeches and statements made at committee meetings.
“Unlike previous nominees whose records were largely unknown to the Committee, Senator Sessions is well known to all of us,” Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, wrote in a response Wednesday to Ms. Feinstein. “Far from delaying our review, Senator Sessions’ extensive public record — including service known personally to members of this Committee — should aid the determination of his character and qualifications for this high office on a timeline consistent with prior nominations, if not earlier.”
Groups seeking to delay the confirmation hearing have begun to point out speeches and other details from Mr. Sessions’ years as a public servant that he neglected to include in his confirmation questionnaire.
The progressive advocacy group People For the American Way noted that Mr. Sessions did not mention his failed 1986 nomination as a federal judge in a section of the questionnaire asking for a description of his employment record and “any unsuccessful candidacies you have had for elective office or unsuccessful nominations for appointed offices.”
Allegations of racism emerged when Mr. Sessions was nominated for a judgeship; he was accused during his time as a U.S. attorney of having called a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy,” a charge he denied. Witnesses also recalled Mr. Sessions referring to the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “un-American” and “communist-inspired,” characterizations he has not disputed.
People For the American Way, the NAACP, Human Rights Campaign and others also have sought to point out gaps in the documents Mr. Sessions has submitted, noting there is no record of speeches before 1999 or after June 2016.
Ms. Feinstein also had raised specific questions about speeches and documents Mr. Sessions failed to submit — including a 2007 speech to the Federation for American Immigration Reform. She also questioned whether his description of work on political campaigns is detailed enough.
Mr. Grassley noted that lawmakers frequently speak at events without prepared remarks and that Mr. Sessions had submitted a list of speeches for which there were no written notes.
“Senator Sessions has nevertheless produced hundreds of pages of such remarks, providing plenty of material to aid us in our review of his record and character,” Mr. Grassley wrote, adding that it is not unusual for a nominee to later supplement the record.
Mr. Grassley said he intends to stick with a nomination hearing that will span Jan. 10-11.