Next week, Congress starts hearings on President-elect Donald Trump’s troubling cabinet nominees. First up, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on Trump’s pick for Attorney General, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). But if the committee keeps to that schedule, it will have to consider a woefully incomplete record on Sessions.
As is customary, the Judiciary Committee required Sessions to submit information about his employment history, published writings, interviews, speeches and more. On Dec. 9, Sessions sent a response replete with omissions about his decades-long career as U.S. attorney for Alabama, Alabama attorney general, and U.S. senator. Amidst pressure (and after thorough research by advocates), on Dec. 23 he submitted a supplemental response. This, too, was alarmingly deficient.
Providing the committee with this information is not simply a formality. The information is vital for the public and the committee to have as it considers the whether a nominee is qualified to do the job. It is also surprising that Sessions would choose to leave so much out of his record since he declared one of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees unfit because of his failure to provide complete information to the Judiciary Committee. Sessions asserted that the nominee’s “unwillingness to take seriously his obligation to complete these basic forms is potentially disqualifying and has placed his nomination in jeopardy.”
It's time to put the brakes on Jeff Sessions' nomination as attorney general. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Even though Sessions has failed to comply with the requirement to fully respond to the committee, here’s what we already know about him based on his public record, and why we oppose him:
* He thinks the “wall of separation,” which is the foundation of religious freedom in our country, allowing us to freely choose our beliefs without government intrusion and protecting the integrity of both religion and the government, is “not constitutional,” “not historical,” and “a recent creation.”
Is 1802 “recent”? That’s when Thomas Jefferson famously described the First Amendment as erecting a “wall of separation between Church & State.” And Sessions’ disquieting views are reflected in his support throughout his career for government promotion of religion.
* The Constitution forbids any religious test to hold office, yet Sessions’ statements indicate that he thinks belief in God is prerequisite to understanding the truth, telling the truth and making legal judgments. He criticized then-nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, a Catholic, suggesting that she was not religious enough to do the job: “If you . . . don’t believe in a higher being, maybe you don’t believe there is any truth.”
Sessions also rebuked a former Judiciary Committee chairman who swore in witnesses without requiring them to say “So help me, God.” He intoned, “Ninety-five percent of the people believe in God. An invocation of His name, in conjunction with the seriousness of telling the truth, has an importance beyond mere legal requirement.”
Given these troubling statements, it is all the more important for Sessions to give a complete accounting of his record to the committee. For instance, it was only through his Dec. 23 response to the committee that we learned he’s spoken multiple times to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an anti-Muslim organization devoted to fighting “the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values.”
What else might he have failed to reveal?
The Senate Judiciary Committee should delay the Sessions hearing until he fulfills his obligation to provide information, and there’s a complete record to review – otherwise, it’s a rigged process. We need to know everything – even if it only further proves his track record of undermining constitutional protections, civil rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights.
At some point, Sessions’ record (and his lack of compliance) should be disqualifying.
We need you to stand with us and fight back. Call your senators today!