Far-right US Senator Jeff Sessions is now Trump’s Attorney General. But his confirmation process was so turbulent that one senator found herself silenced. Just for speaking about Sessions’ past.
Exposing the skeletons in Sessions’ closet
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on 7 February for challenging Senate norms on treating colleagues with deference. Her apparent crime? Quoting a 30-year-old letter.
That letter, written by Martin Luther King Jr.’s late widow Coretta Scott King in 1986, accused Sessions of using his “awesome powers” as an attorney “in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters”. According to Rev Dr Barbara Reynolds, a close friend of King’s, the letter came at a time when Sessions was “prosecuting black people trying to help other blacks register to vote”.
Republican aides later claimed Warren’s punishment wasn’t only for reading the letter, but also for ignoring warnings and delivering a derogatory speech which went even further than King’s letter.
More background on Sessions
America’s new top law enforcement official:
- Is “a military hawk” and “a climate change skeptic” who has previously voted against banning “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of prisoners. The Washington Post.
- Was “often Trump before Trump was Trump”. Politico.
- Is a man “once deemed too racist to be judge”. The Independent.
- Has “close ties to the worst of the Islamophobic far right” (which seeks to “foment a war on Muslims”). Jacobin.
- Has “a record of public statements portraying Muslim immigrants in menacing terms”. The Atlantic.
- Was “one of the leading immigration hawks in the Republican caucus” and “formed a close alliance with the far-right website Breitbart in the process”. The Guardian.
- Is a “hardliner” who has “shown himself to be indifferent (or worse) to the problem of official state violence against the poor and minority citizens under his jurisdiction”. Also, “there was no senator more dedicated in his opposition to LGBTQ rights”, and “those people who have grown comfortable with relaxed laws regarding marijuana should sober up quickly”. Esquire.
- Is “the human antidote to the Voting Rights Act” of 1965 (America’s most important civil rights law). Comedian Samantha Bee.
Accusations of racism have long followed Sessions around. And while he has insisted he’s “not a racist” or “insensitive to blacks”, the Southern Poverty Law Center claims he is indeed guilty of hate speech.
After the Senate silenced Elizabeth Warren on 7 February for pointing out Sessions’ past, others were quick to show solidarity. Senators Tom Udall, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders, for example, also read King’s letter aloud in the Senate. But without Republican resistance. Which led comedian Stephen Colbert to point out:
These days a black person can’t get their message heard even when a white person is saying it, unless that white person is a guy…
Warren herself, meanwhile, told The Daily Show:
The Republicans are not saying: ‘hey, those aren’t the facts’, or ‘something has changed’, or ‘he did all those other things afterwards’. No. What they’re saying is: ‘You don’t get to talk about that.’
One voice silenced, another amplified
The Washington Post now fears that Sessions, in his new role, will:
- Be very faithful to Trump. The President’s chief strategist (and former Breitbart executive chair) Steve Bannon, for example, has previously called Sessions “the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of Trump’s agenda”.
- Back more “voter suppression efforts” and weaken civil rights protections.
- Crack down “on Muslims, undocumented immigrants and even critics”.
In short, there’s now even more for America’s far right to look forward to in the coming months and years. And even more for progressive Americans to resist.
– See our TrumpWatch articles, which keep an eye on what’s going on in Trump’s America.