Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, began his confirmation hearings Tuesday amidst protests and allegations of racism. Sessions was repeatedly confronted by senators about the claims that led to his failed nomination for a position on a federal district court in Alabama in 1986. During the hearing, he was accused of using racist language, including “telling a black attorney to be careful what he said to ‘white folks,’ failing to denounce the sentiment that a white civil rights lawyer was a traitor to his race, and calling the NAACP ‘un-American,’” BuzzFeed News reported.
Sessions, apparently, did not appreciate being called racist and bigoted, saying that it did not “feel good” to be labeled as such. He also denied any sympathies towards the Ku Klux Klan, declaring, “I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology,” according to the Huffington Post.
Sessions’ nomination has drawn criticism from civil rights groups across the country. While he has made it clear that he does not support a ban on Muslims and plans to recuse himself from any potential investigations into Hillary Clinton, Sessions is well known for his history of conservative policies in his twenty years of representing the state of Alabama as a senator. He is particularly notorious for being tough on immigration, and has even served as one of Donald Trump’s primary immigration advisors during the transition. His views have resulted in at least 400 letters from civil rights organizations, as well as a letter signed by over 1400 law professors objecting to his confirmation, according to Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein. According to BuzzFeed, the law professors expressed concern that there was nothing in Sessions’ record of service to indicate “that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge.” Feinstein went on to add that, “There is a deep fear about what a Trump administration will bring in many places. And this is the context in which we must consider Senator Sessions’ record and nomination.”
BuzzFeed reported that, an hour into the confirmation hearing, seven protesters had been removed by US Capitol Police for disrupting proceedings with chants, including “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Other protestors held up signs or dressed up as members of the KKK.
Sessions is widely expected to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. However, the hearing expected to be contentious, and will likely set the tone for the upcoming hearings of several of Trump’s other nominees.