Five questions for Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

David Cole writes: On Wednesday, a group of thirty protesters staged a sit-in inside the Mobile, Alabama office of Republican Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. They delivered an ultimatum: they would stay until Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general of the United States, declined the nomination. Around 7 PM, police arrested six people for refusing to leave. All were from the NAACP — including its president, Cornell W. Brooks.

In a statement, Brooks explained why the NAACP believes Sessions is the wrong person for the job. “Sen. Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud,” he said. “As an opponent of the vote, he can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights.”

It’s no coincidence that the NAACP’s act of civil disobedience recalls the civil rights years. Sessions himself seems a throwback to that era — and not on the side of the heroes. And for the NAACP, a throwback is not what we need now, when racial tensions around policing are high, hate crimes have dramatically increased, and white supremacists have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. Throughout his career, Sessions has shown insensitivity, if not outright hostility, to the interests not only of African-Americans, but of Muslims, gays and lesbians, women, and immigrants as well. The attorney general of the United States is charged with enforcing the law equally for all, and with overseeing the enforcement of the civil rights laws that protect those most vulnerable. Is Jeff Sessions the right man for the job?

Cornell Brooks will be testifying at Sessions’s confirmation hearing, which will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. I will also be testifying, on behalf of the ACLU. As a matter of longstanding policy, the ACLU does not take positions supporting or opposing nominees for office, and as a result it rarely testifies in confirmation hearings. But we are sufficiently concerned about Sen. Sessions’s record that we have elected to depart from our usual practice and speak out — not to oppose the nomination, but to insist that the many questions about Sessions’s record must be answered before the Senate votes on his nomination. [Continue reading…]

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