Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the first of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks to face the Senate confirmation process for the president-elect’s team.
While Trump himself will take the oath of office on January 20, the transition team has fast-tracked the confirmation hearings. Many of his Cabinet choices have been shrouded in controversy as some are from wealthy business backgrounds and have complex financial histories.
“Senator Sessions’ record is a life of public service,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the opening of Session’s nomination hearing for Attorney General on Tuesday.
Sessions has, however, been subject to a number of controversies regarding his comments about race.
At a 1986 confirmation for a federal judgeship, a black jurist testified that Sessions had called the Ku Klux Klan “okay until I found out they smoked pot.”
Sessions later said the comment was made in jest and apologized for it, saying he considered the Klan “a force for hatred and bigotry.”
The start of Tuesday’s confirmation hearing was interrupted by protesters in KKK costumes.
Members of Code Pink wearing Lady Liberty outfits also protested the hearing with signs reading ‘End Racism, Stop Sessions’ and ‘Hate Sessions.’
Ranking Member, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, California) critical of Sessions said he voted for water boarding and voted against hate crimes law.
Feinstein said Sessions said at the time of the vote about the hate crimes law ‘today I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientation faced that kind of discrimination,’ quoted Feinstein.
She added “Hate crimes are happening, the Dept. of Justice must see it.”
Just before Sessions began testimony he was interrupted by several protesters, shouting ‘No KKK’; three people were escorted from the hearing.
“You know who I am, you know what I believe…and can be trusted to do what I say what I will do,”
said Senator Jeff Sessions (R, Alabama) in his opening statement.
Sessions said in his 14 years with the Department Justice, he oversaw prosecutions in drugs cases, violent crimes, a series of public corruption cases, and important civil rights cases.
Sessions said he supported community-based policing.
“I am committed to this effort for improving the relations between the police and the communities they serve,” said Sessions. He said positive relations and great communications between police and communities are necessary and police should be held accountable.
If confirmed Sessions said he would protect “the people from the scourge of radical terrorism,” by “using all lawful means to keep our country safe.”
The Alabama senator said the office of attorney general “is not a political position” and anyone who holds it must be faithful to laws and the Constitution.
Session said he understands 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.”
During questioning, Senator Grassley asked about Sessions about statements he made criticizing Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
“It was a highly contentious campaign, with regard to Hillary Clinton I do believe could place my objectivity in question, the proper things would be to recuse myself,” said Sessions.
Grassely confirmed that Sessions would recuse himself if the Justice Department were to decide the prosecute over the Clinton emails and Clinton Foundation, if they are cause to do so.