8 Takeaways From the First Day of Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Hearings

8 Takeaways From the First Day of Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Hearings

January 10, 2017/

by Fred Lucas

It got rowdy at times during the hearing Tuesday on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to become attorney general, but not so much because of fellow senators who questioned the Alabama Republican. Protesters interrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing multiple times, some dressed in Ku Klux Klan outfits, others wearing the familiar Code Pink attire. They shouted “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and other slogans. The hearing itself wasn’t as contentious as some expected, as even some Democrats noted their friendship with Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the Justice Department as attorney general. Until Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., challenged Sessions on the precise number of civil rights cases he was involved in as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, there was little talk about the allegations of racism that helped sink Sessions’ 1986 nomination as a federal judge. Here are eight takeaways from the first day of the Sessions confirmation hearings: 1. Racism Allegations ‘Damnably False’ During his opening remarks, Sessions confronted head-on allegations lodged 30 years ago by other Justice Department lawyers that he was hostile to civil rights. “I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans by presenting the Perry County case, the voter fraud case, and of condemning civil rights organizations and even harboring—amazingly—sympathies for the KKK,” Sessions told his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee. “These are damnably false charges.” He explained that he brought a 1982 voter fraud case in Perry County, Alabama, against civil rights advocate Albert Turner at the urging of local prosecutors and a grand jury foreman. “The voter fraud case my office prosecuted was in response to pleas from African-Americans, incumbent elected officials who claim that the absentee ballot process involved a situation in which the ballots cast for them were stolen, altered, and cast for their opponents,” Sessions said. “The prosecution sought to protect the integrity of the ballot, not to block voting. It was a voting rights case.” Turner and others were acquitted. Sessions noted his role as both a U.S. attorney and later as Alabama’s attorney general in the prosecution and execution of Klansman Henry Hays. “As to the KKK, I invited civil rights attorneys from Washington, D.C., to help us solve a very difficult investigation into the unconscionable, horrendous death of a young African-American,” Sessions told the committee, adding: There was no federal death penalty at the time and I felt the death penalty was appropriate in this case. I pushed to have it tried in state court, which was done. That defendant was indeed convicted and sentenced to death and 10 years later—ironically—as Alabama’s attorney general, my staff participated in a defense of that verdict. That murdering Klansman was indeed executed. I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology. Sessions said he “never declared the NAACP was un-American nor that a civil rights attorney was a disgrace to his race,” as he had been accused of in 1986. 2. He’ll Recuse Himself on Clinton Sessions said as attorney general he would recuse himself from any federal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the Clinton Foundation, because he publicly criticized the Democratic nominee during the 2016 presidential race. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, asserted her concerns during opening remarks. “The president-elect said to his opponent during a debate, ‘If I win, I’m going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look at your situation,’” Feinstein said. “Mr. Chairman, that’s not what an attorney general does. An attorney general does not investigate and prosecute at the behest of a president.” Later, Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, raised the question. “In light of the comments that you made, some have pressed concern about whether you can approach the Clinton matter impartially in both fact and appearance. How do you plan to address those concerns?” Grassley asked. Sessions said it was a highly contentious campaign. “I, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign with regard to Secretary Clinton and some of the comments I made I do believe could place my objectivity in question,” Sessions said. “I’ve given that thought. I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any kind of investigations involving Secretary Clinton and matters raised during the campaign.” Later in the hearing, in response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Sessions said he never joined the chants of “lock her up” during the presidential campaign. 3. Russian Espionage Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked whether Sessions would recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor for an investigation of any Trump campaign officials that might have worked with Russian intelligence. Durbin said it was “a hypothetical.” His decision to recuse himself from any Clinton probe was “because I’ve made public comments that could be construed as having an impact on the final judgment that would be rendered,” Sessions said, adding: I don’t think I made any comments on this issue that would go to that. But I would review it and try to do the right thing as to whether or not it should stay within the jurisdiction of the attorney general or not. Early in the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked about the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email. “How do you feel about a foreign entity trying to interfere in our election? I’m not saying they changed the outcome, but it is clear they did it. How do you feel about it and what should we do?” Graham asked. Sessions called it a “a significant event.” “We have penetration apparently throughout our government by foreign entities. We know the Chinese revealed background information on millions of people in the United States,” Sessions said, adding: These I suppose ultimately are part of international big power politics. But when a nation uses their improperly gained or intelligence-wise gained information to take policy positions and impact other nation’s democracy or approach to any issue, then that raises real serious matters. Really I suppose it goes in many ways to our State Department and our Defense Department in how we as a nation have to react to that. 4. ‘Access Hollywood’ Video In a line of questioning that seemed to catch Sessions off guard, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., brought up the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump is heard making lewd comments about groping women. “If a sitting president or any other high federal official is accused of committing what the president-elect described in a context in which it could be federally prosecuted, would you be able to prosecute it and investigate it?” Leahy asked. Sessions, who also agreed any such behavior would be sexual assault, said the president could be prosecuted. “The president is subject to certain lawful restrictions and they would be required to be applied by the appropriate law enforcement official if appropriate, yes,” Sessions said. 5. Saying ‘No’ to President Trump Sessions talked about how he would move from making law and voting on policy to enforcing laws—even laws he voted against—as a matter of duty. Stressing independence, he also said the attorney general is not a political office. “He or she must be committed to following the law,” he said. “He or she must be willing to tell the president ‘no’ if he overreaches. He or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp to any idea the president has.” He added: He or she also must set the example for the employees in the department to do the right thing and ensure that they know the attorney general will back them up, no matter what politician might call, or what powerful special interest, influential contributor, or friend might try to intervene. 6. Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage Feinstein pressed Sessions on two major social issues, abortion and same-sex marriage. Sessions said he would enforce the law on both. “You have referred to Roe v. Wade as ‘one of the worst, colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time.’ Is that still your view?” Feinstein asked. Sessions responded: It is. I believe it violated the Constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law. It is the law of the land. It is established and has been so for a long time. It deserves respect, and I will respect it and follow it. Asked later whether his Justice Department would argue before the Supreme Court in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the nation, Sessions said the question was too hypothetical. Feinstein referred to a November interview that Trump gave on “60 Minutes” in which the president-elect said same-sex marriage was settled law. She asked whether Sessions agreed. “It was 5-4 and five justices on the Supreme Court, the majority of the court has established the definition of marriage for the entire United States of America, and I will follow that decision,” Sessions said. 7. Illegal Immigration On one of Trump’s signature issues, curbing illegal immigration, Sessions said the U.S. must enforce its laws. He also said Congress has a role in fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. “Colleagues, it has not been working right,” Sessions said. “We’ve entered more and more millions of people illegally into the country. Each one of them produces some sort of humanitarian concern. But it is particularly true for children. We’ve been placed in a particularly bad situation.” When the matter came up later, Sessions talked about the economic impact of illegal immigration. “Immigration has been a high priority for the United States. We’ve been a leading country in the world in accepting immigration,” Sessions said, adding: I don’t think the American people want to end immigration. I do think if you bring in a larger flow of labor than we have jobs for, it does impact adversely the wage prospects, the job prospects of American citizens. As a nation, we should evaluate immigration on whether or not it serves and advances the national interest and not the corporate interest. It has to be in the people’s interest first. 8. Operation Choke Point Sessions briefly addressed Operation Choke Point, a secretive Justice Department program that works with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other agencies to target legal businesses—such as payday lenders, tobacco sellers, and gun dealers—that the Obama administration opposes. Choke Point refers to the aim of discouraging banks and other lenders from doing business with these industries, thus choking off financing. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, later asked Sessions whether it is proper to target legal businesses for political reasons, and whether he would stop it if confirmed. “At least as you framed this issue, as I understand the issue, from what little I know about it, fundamentally, a lawful business should not be attacked by having other lawful businesses preVideo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kBvg-P8_M0ssured not to do business with the first business. For me that would be hard to justify,” Sessions said.

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LIGHTER SIDE

ALERT ALERT

Clinton Donor And Tax Cheat Tied To Russia

“Do as we say, not as we do.”

That seems to be the slogan for Hillary Clinton and her political allies, and it’s especially apt in light of new information about one of Clinton’s largest campaign donors.

While the left is still trying to attack President Trump and his family over unproven business dealings and largely debunked connections to Russia, a new report indicates that it was Hillary Clinton’s team who were doing those exact things.

“Fox News has learned that one of the top donors to the ‘Hillary Victory Fund’ (HVF) in 2016 was a Los Angeles-based attorney who is alleged to have misused company funds to create his own $22 million real estate portfolio,” that outlet reported on Thursday.

“He has also been considered by California to be one of the state’s biggest tax cheats, and allegedly has ties to the (Russian) Kremlin,” Fox continued.

The man’s name is Edgar Sargsyan. His deep pockets greatly benefited Clinton’s campaign, with contributions of at least $250,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016.

He was also in charge of an elite fundraising dinner to benefit Clinton, where donors paid $100,000 per couple just to attend the ritzy event. But in true Clinton fashion, the money apparently went missing.

Sargsyan is now “being sued by his former company for allegedly diverting those funds to start his own real estate company,” according to Fox.

Now, people are asking hard questions about Clinton’s buddy Sargsyan, including whether his contributions were part of a pay-to-play scheme and if he had shady connections to foreign governments.

“Nobody gave to the Hillary Victory Fund out of the goodness of their heart or some generalized desire to help 33 random state parties,” pointed out attorney Dan Backer from the Committee to Defend the President.

“They did so to buy access and curry influence — something the Clintons have been selling for nearly three decades in and out of government,” he continued.

Trying to buy political influence is sadly common, especially when it comes to the Clintons. What is raising more red flags than normal, however, is the evidence that Sargsyan is no run-of-the-mill campaign donor.

“The really scary question is, what did this particular donor with this strange web of connections hope to buy for his quarter-million dollars?” Backer asked Fox News.

That web of connections is strange indeed.

The Committee to Defend the President is now alleging that SBK, a major Sargsyan-linked company “is an investment firm that is affiliated with United Arab Emirates president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and its international affiliate has business interests in Russia,” according to Fox.

“Among its dealings was a bid to finance $850 million for a major bridge project to connect Crimea with Russia,” the group claims.

“He worked for SBK, and SBK appears to have bid on some Crimean/Russian bridge project,” Backer said. “That’s usually an indicator of political favor and connections.”

It raises several chilling questions: Was Sargsyan paying a quarter million dollars to Clinton for political favors, and — more disturbingly — was that money actually from sources in Russia in order to smooth the way for its construction plans?

Nobody knows for sure. What is clear, however, is that there is a pattern of dirty money surrounding the Clintons, with the “Uranium One” and “Clinton Foundation” scandals just two of the most well-known examples.

“It reinforces how fast and loose the Clinton machine was when it came to ‘Hoovering up’ these megadonor checks, not just from questionable Hollywood and Wall Street elites but potentially from foreign influence peddlers using who knows what money,” Backer told Fox News.

“It reinforces the need to take a long hard look at not just the unlawful money laundering process, but the way in which they were solicited as well,” he continued. “The Clintons have never shown a great deal of concern for whomever it was cutting the checks — whether it’s foreign influence peddlers or Hollywood smut peddlers like Harvey Weinstein.”

If those claims are even partially true, then America dodged a bullet in November of 2016 — and it’s worth keeping the pile of foreign-connected Clinton scandals in mind the next time the left tries desperately to tie Donald Trump to Russia. Perhaps they should look in the mirror.

SLAVEHOLDER??

Washington Post Compares
Jeff Sessions To Slaveholder’

The Washington Post compared Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “slaveholders” after he quoted the Bible on Thursday while discussing his department’s policy of prosecuting all illegal immigrants who cross the border.

Sessions made the statement during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

WaPo ran a story entitled “Sessions cites Bible passage used to defend slavery in defense of separating immigrant families” by general assignment editor Keith McMillan and religion reporter Julie Zauzmer on Friday.

Rather than detailing the statistics Sessions cited in the speech that explain the immigration policy, the story quoted John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

“This is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made,” Fea said.

Sessions spent much of the speech discussing the numbers behind current immigration policy, including separating families at the Southwest border.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said.

“Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

“The previous administration wouldn’t prosecute aliens if they came with children,” Sessions said.

“It was de-facto open borders if you came with children. The results were unsurprising. More and more illegal aliens started showing up at the border with children.”

Sessions laid out the numbers in the speech.

“In 2013, fewer than 15,000 family units were apprehended crossing our border illegally between ports of entry in dangerous areas of the country,” he said.

“Five years later, it was more than 75,000, a five-fold increase in five years. It didn’t even have to be their child that was brought, it could be anyone. You can imagine that this created a lot of danger.”

The U.S. has the “opportunity” to fix its broken immigration system now, Sessions said.

“I believe that’s it’s moral, right, just and decent that we have a lawful system of immigration,” he said. “The American people have been asking for it.”

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