President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general faced more than nine hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he denied being a racist and tried to distance himself from Trump’s most extreme promises. As he faced questions, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama was repeatedly disrupted by protesters who chanted “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist U.S.A.!” Sessions has previously opposed legislation that provides a path to citizenship for immigrants, questioned if the Constitution guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States, and declared same-sex marriage a threat to American culture. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, opposed the Voting Rights Act and has a history of making racist comments.
William Barber talking:
Repairers of the Breach, along with Faith in Public Life, with my good friend Reverend Jennifer Butler, and 500 clergy and impacted persons, we led a Moral Monday march to McConnell’s office, Senate Leader McConnell, asking him and all of the other senators to reject the Sessions nomination. This was the first time, we understand, that clergy have done this at this period.
We really believe it’s a moral crisis, and there’s so much camouflaging that we have to get underneath so that we can get to the truth. First of all, when we talk about Jeff Sessions, they say, “Well, he’s a Methodist.” Well, so was George Wallace. They say, “Well, he’s cordial.” Well, Southern cordiality and racial animosity are two different things altogether. They say that he’s been respectful. Well, you can be respectful—Jesse Helms had certain levels of respect, but he was very racist in his policies.
What we look at now is where Sessions has stood on the issues. And let me point out what I mean by that. First of all, he has shown a contempt for the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which says, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged.” And then Section 2 says, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article.” For 1,296 days, Senator Sessions has been a part of the group that has kept the Congress from enforcing the 15th Amendment by fixing Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. He has a contempt for the 15th Amendment. He has called the Voting Rights Act “an intrusive piece of legislation.” That is the legislation that people died for. He says it is intrusive. In other words, it’s a bother. He has stood against voting rights. He has applauded the Shelby decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, and has done nothing in the Congress to fix it. Even on yesterday, he said he did not know anything about the biggest voter suppression case in the country right now, the North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, where the court said that North Carolina engaged in intentional racial discrimination, things they could not have done if Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was enforced.
So, here’s the question for America: If Sessions has a contempt for the 15th Amendment as a senator, if he has tried to undermine the 15th Amendment as a senator, then why would you want him to be the attorney general, who is required to enforce the 15th Amendment? That’s the kind of racism that we’re talking about. Racism in America is not just about a white supremacist yelling the N-word or wearing robes or burning crosses. Racism is perpetrated through systems of power that consistently privilege white people while discriminating against people of color and other Americans. And when you look at his record on this, he has a contempt for the 15th Amendment, for the protection of voting rights, and has applauded false claims about voter fraud and real realities of voter suppression, that is greater than things we’ve seen since the days of Jim Crow.
And there are several things that were so striking and hypocritical at that hearing yesterday. You know, when Senator Sessions said, you know, he denounced the Klan, you know, those are kind of common phrases to say, you know, “I did this”—he said he didn’t call the NAACP “un-American.” Basically, he’s saying, “I did these things. You all heard it. But you didn’t really hear what you heard or see what you saw.” In essence, he’s calling Coretta Scott King a liar. He’s saying the NAACP and our people are liars. He’s even saying that Ms. Turner is a liar. You know, she’s still alive. And just the other day, she says, “I know Jeff Sessions. The leopard has not changed his spots.” She said that he tried to put her and her husband in jail for 250 years. That’s the same length of time that black people were enslaved in this country. And it was all over a fraudulent case. He claims to have worked on cases, but there’s a Washington Post article that says he really didn’t work on those cases.
So what we have here is someone who has a clear record. He has a record in the past. He never repented of it. Now, he may say he—he may suggest they weren’t his ideas, but he’s never repented of it and become an advocate for voting rights and a staunch supporter of the 15th Amendment. If anything, he has hardened over the years and become more shrewd over the years. I keep saying this constantly, Amy, to people: This Congress, for 1,296 days today, has refused to do its job. In essence, you’ve had what Dr. King called interposition and nullification in the Congress, refusing to fix the 15th Amendment. That, in itself, alone, should be a disqualifier for someone who’s being asked to lead the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.
However, there’s something else. Senator Sessions has stood against legislation that would help vulnerable Muslim Americans, that would help the LGBT community. He has voted against immigrant rights and the rights of refugees. He has even voted against the women’s act, Violence Against Women Act. And he voted against a program that would help minorities, African Americans and women have access to federal contracts, which means he’s not only in contempt—he has a contempt for the 15th Amendment, he has a contempt for the 14th Amendment, which—I mean, excuse me, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says you cannot discriminate in any programs that receive federal money. So, he has a contempt for the 15th Amendment. He has shown contempt for the 14th Amendment, which says equal protection under the law shall be provided to all people, regardless of their race, their color, their creed, their sexuality. He’s shown a contempt for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VI. So, someone who has shown a contempt for these things cannot be put in office to be the law enforcement officer over these things. It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
Rev. Dr. William Barber
reverend and president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays leader. He’s the author of Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.
— source democracynow.org