After Day 1 of a two-day hearing on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General, NPR listed these five top takeaways: “Defending his record on race. …Recuse from Clinton investigations. …Condemning waterboarding. …No to a Muslim ban and registry. …[From protestors,] ‘No Trump. No KKK. No Fascist USA.'”
While a grilling of the Alabama Republican was forecast by some, the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats’ questioning of their colleague was relatively mild. “Democrats rarely offered more than tepid and predictable criticisms,” said a New York Times editorial about Sessions delivering “smooth talk” before the panel. Our sister organization Alliance for Justice (see Gavel Grab) and others have raised concerns about his unraveling hard-fought civil rights and human rights gains if confirmed, and the editorial concluded:
“Mr. Sessions did nothing on Tuesday to dispel the understandable fears that he would stall if not reverse much of that progress. His defense against charges of racism that caused the Senate to reject him for a federal judgeship in 1986 was largely to say it hurt his feelings to be called racist, but his two decades in the Senate provide little hope that he has changed.”
Editorialized The Newark Star-Ledger, “Given his past comments and dubious record, Sessions faces a high bar to earn the public’s trust. He didn’t hurdle it today, by leaving crucial questions unanswered.”
Liberals had hoped for fireworks on Day 1 but saw instead a domination of “senatorial courtesy,” according to CNN. Its report mentioned AFJ President Nan Aron’s view. She “said the hearing showcased the ‘traditional courtesy Senators extend to one another,’ but she said she expected a ‘radically different approach’ for the upcoming Supreme Court hearing. ‘Senator [Dianne] Feinstein is as tough and as committed as they come, and the fate of the Supreme Court will be an important part of her legacy,’ Aron said.” Feinstein is the committee’s ranking Democrat.
On Wednesday, the witness list for Sessions’ second day of hearings was devoted to supporters and detractors, according to a Washington Post blog. The themes of the hearings so far were captured by these New York Times and Washington Post articles. At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “True Lies: There was one moment in Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing that revealed why so many are so terrified of him.”