Sen. Jeff Sessions will fight back against the assault on his character Tuesday, defending his reputations against painful accusations that he is a racist, sexist and homophobe at a Senate hearing on his nomination to become attorney general.
The former federal prosecutor and Alabama attorney general will insist that his lifetime commitment to law and order includes the protection of the rights of every American.
“I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it,” Mr. Sessions plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to his prepared opening remarks.
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“I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by the LGBT community. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse,” the Alabama Republican says in the statement.
Mr. Sessions is the first of President-elect Donald Trump ’s Cabinet nominees to face the scrutiny of a Senate confirmation hearing, and he is one of the most controversial nominees.
He is the chief target of liberal groups hoping to derail Mr. Trump ’s agenda. Activists for civil rights, gay rights, illegal immigrants and marijuana legalization are pressuring Senate Democrats, some of whom have served alongside Mr. Sessions for 20 years in the Senate, to oppose him.
But Mr. Sessions will try to present himself to his colleagues and the American people as someone not only qualified for the job but also reverent of the responsibilities of serving as the country’s top law enforcement officer.
“I feel the weight of an honor greater than I have aspired to. If I am confirmed, I commit to you and to the American people to be worthy of that office and the special trust that comes with it,” he says. “While all humans must recognize the limits of their abilities — and I do — I am ready for this job. We will do it right.”
The chief complaint about Mr. Sessions has been over race, stemming from accusations that as U. S. attorney in Alabama in the 1980s he improperly prosecuted black voting rights activists and made racially insensitive comments. He is accused of joking one time that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he learned its members smoked marijuana.
In 1986, the same accusations derailed his nomination for the federal bench when he also was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Sessions has vehemently denied making racially insensitive statements or holding racist views. He has pledged to uphold the law fairly and equitably. But his critics are far from satisfied.
“I come before you today as a colleague who has worked with you for years, and with some of you for 20 years. You know who I am. You know what I believe in. You know that I am a man of my word and can be trusted to do what I say I will do,” Mr. Sessions says in the opening statement.
“You know that I revere our Constitution and am committed to the rule of law. And you know that I believe in fairness, impartiality, and equal justice under the law,” he says.
Mr. Sessions will outline goals for battling gun crimes, illegal immigration, drub-trafficking cartels and other criminal gangs. He also will pledge to protect voting rights, support local law enforcement agencies and build mutual respect between police and minority communities.
“In my over 14 years in the Department of Justice, I tried cases of nearly every kind — drug trafficking, firearms, and other violent crimes, significant public corruption cases, financial wrongdoing, civil rights violations, environmental violations, and hate crimes,” he says. “Protecting the people of this country from crime, and especially from violent crime, is the high calling of the men and women of the Department of Justice. Today, I am afraid, that has become more important than ever.”
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