Adam Serwer writes: One of the first things Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions promised the Senate Judiciary Committee was independence.
Donald Trump ran on a vision of “law and order” that included violence against protesters at his rallies, the promised incarceration of his political opponent, and a pledge to ban adherents of an entire religious faith from the country. At his confirmation hearing, Sessions sought to reassure his colleagues that, despite the then-president-elect’s bluster, the Alabama senator would preserve the rule of law and the traditional independence of the Justice Department from the man who nominated him, if need be.
“You simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way and have to be able to say no, both for the country, for the legal system and for the president, to avoid situations that are not acceptable,” Sessions told the committee on January 10. “I understand that duty.”
On January 30, the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, concluded that she faced such a situation, telling Department of Justice attorneys not to defend a controversial executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump dismissed her from her post.
That order, however, appears consistent with Sessions’s long record of public statements on Muslim immigration and his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions was among the first to defend Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims from the country, and has long portrayed Muslim immigrants to the United States as posing a particular threat. He has, moreover, issued a series of releases and public statements implying that the overall level of Muslim immigration to the United States, and not just the views of particular immigrants, should be a matter of public concern. [Continue reading…]