Alarm is spreading at the news Donald Trump has chosen Senator Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General, the country’s chief lawyer and law enforcement officer.
The Alabama politician, who has made comments suggesting he agrees with the Ku Klux Klan and taken a hardline stance on immigration, would have to “supervise and direct” the US Department of Justice, advise the President and agency chiefs on legal matters and represent the US Government in court.
Here are eight reasons the 69-year-old’s politics have terrified Liberal America for more than three decades.
1. He was accused of racism in his first job on the national scene
As a US Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, he prosecuted three black civil rights workers - including a former aide to Martin Luther King - for voter fraud after they led registration drives among the black community. They were acquitted. Civil rights groups accused Sessions of pursuing the case for racist reasons, ignoring similar alleged offences within the white community.
When Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal judge in 1986, the Senate heard testimony that Sessions had privately called black civil rights campaigners the NAACP “un-American”, “Communist-inspired” and said it and the American Civil Liberties Union had “forced civil rights down the throats of people”. The witness, government lawyer J. Gerald Hebert, testified that he once told Sessions a white lawyer had been described as a race traitor and that Sessions had said “he probably is”.
2. He ‘joked’ he didn’t mind the politics of the Ku Klux Klan
When Sessions went before the Senate to defend himself, it was put to him he once said he did not mind the white supremacist organisation the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot”. He was accused of saying this by a black prosecutor, who said Sessions had also called him “boy”. Sessions insisted the KKK remark was a joke. The Senate rejected his nomination.
3. He opposes letting anyone already in the US illegally become citizens
Sessions said any Republican who backed undocumented immigrants having a path to citizenship should drop out. He said Republicans should all commit to a policy that “no one who illegally enters this country will ever be given the benefits of U.S. citizenship”. “Supporting citizenship for illegal immigrants should be disqualifying,” Sessions said. “Just like we can’t have a nominee who supports Obamacare, we can’t have a nominee who supports amnesty.”
4. His hardline ‘Immigration Handbook’ was branded xenophobic
Trump has the anti-immigration rhetoric. Sessions has the anti-immigration plan. In January, 2015, Sessions wrote a 23-page pamphlet for fellow Republicans in the Senate that blamed immigrants for “welfare dependency”, condemned Obama’s amnesty to illegal immigrants and said he had waged a “sustained campaign” to stop anyone being deported. He calls for Republican senators to fight to tighten the laws. “Is America a sovereign nation that has the right to control its borders and decide who comes to live and work here?” he asked. Salon called the pamphlet “right-wing populist xenophobia in its purest form”.
5. He even advocates cutting legal immigration
Writing in The Washington Post, Sessions attacked the level of immigration, playing on his familiar theme of defending low-paid American workers’ against increased competition that immigrants bring. “What we need now is immigration moderation,” he wrote. “Slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.”
6. He wasn’t that bothered that Trump suggested banning all Muslims from entering the US
Trump’s most infamous commitment did not stun Sessions the way it did most congressional Republicans. In an interview with Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon - the white nationalist now set to be Trump’s chief strategist - Sessions said: “We’re seeing more and more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts and a lot of them believe it’s commanded by their religion … So I think it’s appropriate to begin to discuss this.”
7. He backs Trump’s wall with Mexico
Sessions has worked to fortify the US border with Mexico for years. He enthusiastically backed Trump’s pledge to build a 2,000 mile long, 55-feet high wall. He was the first US Senator to back him for president. Days before the election, Sessions said: “The crisis at the southwest border highlights the simple fact that, without barriers to prevent the illegal entry of additional aliens, the brave men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol simply do not have enough personnel to detain and deport all illegal border-crossers.”
8. He doesn’t think ‘grabbing’ people by their genitals is sexual assault
Sessions said people were wrong when they correctly stated Trump boasting about “grabbing women by the pussy” amounted to sexual assault. “I don’t characterise that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant,” Sessions said during a TV interview. When asked to clarify, Sessions added: “I don’t know. It’s not clear that he—how that would occur.”
To be Attorney General, Sessions must do what he failed to do 30 years ago: be approved by the Senate.