It's Jeff Sessions's confirmation hearing day! So far, the longtime senator and former Attorney General of Alabama who was too much of a racist for a Republican-led committee to approve his nomination to Reagan's federal court is performing about as well as you'd expect him to.
Sessions's responses to questions so far can be split into issues he has "feelings" about, and then other issues that he just plumb hasn't done his studyin' up on and so will simply have to look into once he's finished spreading misinformation about the economic impacts of immigration.
Anyhow, here are the highlights and lowlights so far:
• This weasely shit:
.@SenatorLeahy asks #Sessions: "Why did you vote against expanding protections for LGBT victims, students, immigrants...?" pic.twitter.com/AtWIHUUk7s
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 10, 2017
• After claiming that it would be "constitutional" to repeal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), adding that Obama's executive order is "very questionable constitutionally," Sessions says he just don't know what to do with the 800,000 undocumented children who would suddenly find themselves without legal protection from deportation. Putting the words in Sessions's mouth, Senator Lindsey Graham wondered if Sessions believes the House and Senate should work on the issue. Sessions was quick to affirm that notion.
• Troublingly, Sessions seems to believe that "the people" have given president-elect Trump and the Republican-controlled congress a mandate to pass restrictions on immigration and voting rights, despite the fact that Republicans lost seats in the Senate and Hillary won the popular vote. “I believe that America spoke in this election," he said.
• Sessions said he believes threats to the homeland are "growing."
• He appeared to be open to prosecuting journalists for protecting their sources:
Sessions “not sure” whether he’d prosecute journalists. pic.twitter.com/CviOfvmrib
— FJP Media Lab (@The_FJP) January 10, 2017
• He called the Russian hacks "a significant event," but one that requires more study on his part. He was asked repeatedly whether he agreed with the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, and each time said he had no reason to doubt their conclusions, but he dodged when asked if he'd prosecute Trump, his family, or his associates, if the IC found any involvement between those parties and Russia.
• So long as we're talking about potentially investigating political leaders, Sessions says he'd recuse himself from any DOJ investigations into Hillary Clinton.
• So long as we're talking about Hillary Clinton, Sessions enjoyed a chuckle when asked if he'd ever chanted "Lock her up," a line often repeated at Trump rallies. "No I did not. I don’t think," Sessions said. "I heard it in rallies and so forth, sometimes, I think humorously done.” This fucking guy. He back-peddled in exactly the same way when he got called out for saying the ACLU was "un-American."
• So long as we're talking about chuckling, Lindsey Graham and Sessions smirked and shook their heads as Graham brought up previous allegations of Sessions's racism. Being white southerners, both men had clearly been described as racists before just for saying some basic, totally not racist shit. Like, for instance, that time when Sessions said “I thought the KKK was okay until I learned they smoked marijuana” and that time he prosecuted for voter fraud, allegedly without much evidence, Albert Turner, a civil rights leader who marched with King.
• Sessions blamed violence in Baltimore and Chicago on current criticism of police. His comments on the police, in general, provided the few moments where Sessions showed real emotional energy. "I can feel in my bones about how it was going to play out in the world when we had, what I thought, often times, was legitimate criticism of what was perhaps wrongdoing of an officer, but spilling over into condemnation of our entire police force."
• He stands by his statement that the Voting Rights Act was an "intrusive" piece of legislation, but also called it "one of the most important act[s] to deal with the racial difficulties we face," which means, I guess, he thinks the intrusion was justified. On whether current voter ID laws would restrict access to voting, Sessions said he'd need to study more, but mentions he's supported voter ID laws in the past. That's what we like to call an "inconsistency."
• Senator Al Franken provided the strongest, most direct line of questioning of the morning. He accused Sessions of making misleading statements about the number of desegregation cases Sessions said he had led. Citing an article in the Washington Post, Franken also basically accused Sessions of falsifying the number of civil rights cases Sessions said he personally handled in a questionnaire he delivered before the hearing.
Sure, Senators Franken, Whitehouse, and Klobuchar did a good job, and sure some of the other senators asked Sessions tough, direct questions that will at least get him on the record as having dodged or made misleading statements. But so far, no one has brought the fire Ted Kennedy brought back in 1986. At that hearing, Kennedy called Sessions a "throwback to a shameful era," and added that "It's inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a US attorney, let alone a United States federal judge." The only people saying some no-nonsense shit like that are the ones security is dragging out of the room every 15 minutes or so.
In the second half the hearing, so far we have Sessions admitting that the emoluments clause, which Trump will violate the second he swears into office if he doesn't divest from his companies, does in fact apply to the President:
Sen. Jeff Sessions: The Emoluments Clause does apply to the president https://t.co/TAqire7Ahk https://t.co/mus2zbto5Z
— CNN (@CNN) January 10, 2017
Also, Senator Leahy got Sessions to admit that grabbing a woman's genitals without her consent is sexual assault and would be prosecuted as such:
.@SenatorLeahy to #Sessions: "Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent, is that sexual assault?" #SessionsHearing pic.twitter.com/d2Dh0qPFbE— CSPAN (@cspan) January 10, 2017