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Sessions’ confirmation hearing ends, committee decision looms


Sen. Jeff Ses­sions (R-AL) tes­ti­fies Tues­day before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. (Pho­to: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s pick for attor­ney gen­er­al, Alaba­ma Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, had plen­ty to say about guns in his two day con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, which was marred by protests and renewed alle­ga­tions of racism.

In his open­ing remarks on the first day of his hear­ing, Ses­sions out­lined his vision for the office, and talked about how he would han­dle gun crime.

If I am con­firmed, we will sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly pros­e­cute crim­i­nals who use guns in com­mit­ting crimes,” said Ses­sions. “As Unit­ed States Attor­ney, my office was a nation­al leader in gun pros­e­cu­tions near­ly every year. We will part­ner with state and local law enforce­ment to take down these major drug traf­fick­ing car­tels and dis­man­tle crim­i­nal gangs.”

When asked about uni­ver­sal back­ground checks Tues­day, Ses­sions said he thinks that would be an over­reach.

I believe in back­ground check laws and many of them are appro­pri­ate, but in every instance? There are some instances when it’s not prac­ti­cal, like say for exam­ple some­body inher­it­ed a gun from their grand­fa­ther. Those trans­ac­tions I’m not sure should require that kind of uni­ver­sal back­ground check,” he said.

Ses­sions is a long­time sup­port­er of gun rights, earn­ing an A+ rat­ing from the NRA. On Tues­day, the Nation­al Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion joined the NRA in sup­port­ing Ses­sions, say­ing he’s worked tire­less­ly to pro­tect the rights of law-abid­ing cit­i­zens.

We are con­fi­dent that with Sen. Ses­sions as the top law enforce­ment offi­cer in the nation that our pub­lic will be safer, that crim­i­nals will be tak­en off the streets, that jus­tice will be served, law enforce­ment pri­or­i­ties will take prece­dence over pol­i­tics and the Sec­ond Amend­ment rights of law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans will be respect­ed,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice pres­i­dent and gen­er­al coun­sel in a state­ment released Tues­day.

Still, it wasn’t the smoothest hear­ing for Ses­sions, who under­went a sim­i­lar con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for a fed­er­al judge­ship in 1986. The Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee in that instance, which was also Repub­li­can-con­trolled, nar­row­ly reject­ed Ses­sions’ bid amid alle­ga­tions of racism.

On Tues­day, Ses­sions was repeat­ed­ly inter­rupt­ed by pro­tes­tors that sought to remind com­mit­tee mem­bers and the gen­er­al pub­lic of those 30-year-old alle­ga­tions. One of two pro­tes­tors in KKK robes shout­ed at Ses­sions at one point, before they were removed. “Wait a minute — you can’t arrest me, I’m white!” shout­ed the pro­tes­tor. “White peo­ple don’t get arrest­ed.” Oth­er pro­tes­tors inter­rupt­ed the hear­ing by shout­ing “NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA!”

The next attor­ney gen­er­al must bring hope and heal­ing to this coun­try, and this demands a more coura­geous empa­thy than Sen. Ses­sions’ record demon­strates,” said New Jer­sey Sen. Cory Book­er Wednes­day at Ses­sions’ hear­ing, mark­ing the first time a sit­ting U.S. sen­a­tor tes­ti­fied against a col­league in a Cab­i­net-lev­el con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

Book­er was joined by Civ­il rights icon and fel­low Demo­c­rat, Rep. John Lewis, in oppos­ing Ses­sions. “We need some­one who is going to stand up, speak up and speak out for the peo­ple who need help, for the peo­ple who have been dis­crim­i­nat­ed against,” said Lewis, accord­ing to NBC News.

Just before Lewis spoke Wednes­day, Trump tran­si­tion team mem­bers cir­cu­lat­ed pho­tos of Lewis and Ses­sions hold­ing hands in March 2015 at the 50th anniver­sary of “Bloody Sun­day” on the Edmund Pet­tus Bridge, where civ­il rights marchers, includ­ing Lewis, clashed with police in 1965.

Ses­sions called alle­ga­tions of racism “damnably false” Tues­day, say­ing, “I abhor the Klan and what it rep­re­sents and its hate­ful ide­ol­o­gy.”

If the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee signs off on Ses­sions, his nom­i­na­tion will move to the full Sen­ate for a sim­ple major­i­ty vote, accord­ing to ABC News. Repub­li­cans hold 52 seats in the Sen­ate, includ­ing Ses­sions, who could vote for him­self.
Ses­sions’ con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing ends, com­mit­tee deci­sion looms
Ses­sions’ con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing ends, com­mit­tee deci­sion looms

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