Meet Jeff Sessions with our answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Sessions and the duties of US Attorney General.
Who Is Jeff Sessions?
Jeff Sessions or “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III” is a lawyer and politician from Alabama.
Once upon a time Donald Trump considered him as a running mate, but in February 2017 Sessions joined Trump’s Cabinet as the 84th Attorney General of the United States. By March 1 he was exposed as having misled or lied to Senate in order to secure that position.
Did Jeff Sessions Lie to Senators?
Semantics matter to watchdogs and lawyers. We say he lied; he says he misled.
To become US Attorney General after Donald Trump’s nomination, Jeff Sessions needed Senate’s approval. The approval process involved a formal “job interview” with the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he answered questions under oath.
Senator Al Franken asked what Jeff Sessions would do if he learned that anyone involved with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had communicated with the Russian government. Sessions replied rather defensively and didn’t answer the question:
Sessions told the senators that he himself had been called “a surrogate” of the Trump campaign and added, “I did not have communications with the Russians.”
But on March 2 The Washington Post revealed that Sessions had met with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in July and September 2016. The newspaper also reported that unnamed intelligence officials regard Kislyak as a spy and spy recruiter.
As Representative Elijah Cummings observed, Senator Jeff Sessions’ testimony under oath “was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks – and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians.”
In response to criticism from both sides of the aisle, Sessions refused to resign for colluding with Russia on Trump’s campaign. He then told FOX News that he didn’t know whether the Russian government favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. (That claim raises our eyebrows!)
Sessions did agree to recuse himself from investigations into Trump-Russia campaign collaboration. Normally as US Attorney General it would be his role to investigate the President on behalf of the American people.
What Does the US Attorney General Do?
The US Attorney General or A.G. is a member of the President’s Cabinet. He or she leads the US Department of Justice and is typically regarded as the chief law enforcement officer and primary lawyer of the US government.
The role was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789, which describes the A.G. as having the duties of prosecuting all suits involving the US in the Supreme Court, and as advising the President and other Cabinet members about legal matters.
Can the US Attorney General Be Impeached?
Yes. The Constitution states that the US Attorney General can be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate for “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Given Republican dominance in the House and Senate, impeachment of Jeff Sessions might not be feasible until 2018. Make five calls and help swing a district!
Who Voted For Jeff Sessions To Become Attorney General of the US?
The US Attorney General is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Acting as President, Donald Trump nominated Jeff Sessions to serve as US Attorney General. His preference was publicly announced in November 2016, and Sessions had long assisted with his campaign.
The general public delayed the Sessions hearing with protests on January 10. Democratic senators delayed the confirmation hearing by filibustering. On February 7 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously stopped Senator Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions’ nomination as federal judge.
Warren received widespread support across the US, with McConnell’s scolding that “she persisted” only spurring others to persist in their opposition to the Trump Administration.
On February 8 a Senate majority added Sessions to the Cabinet. All Republican senators gave their approval, as did a lone Democrat (Joe Manchin III of West Virginia).
Why Did Senate Democrats Oppose Jeff Sessions?
Prior to the revelation of Russian contact, Senate opposition to Jeff Sessions was a response to his comments and actions involving civil rights. For the same reason he failed to be confirmed after a nomination to be a district judge in Alabama in 1986. Back then envisioning equitable and peaceful black-white relations was not his strong suit. At Sessions’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice colleagues, all lawyers who had worked with him, testified that Sessions made racially offensive remarks. For one, Thomas Figures, an Assistant US Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Later Sessions reportedly said he’d been joking.
His nomination was opposed by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and People for the American Way.
In 1993 Sessions opposed the Violence Against Women Act, which assisted victims of domestic violence. In 1996 Sessions represented the State of Alabama when it was sued by a GLBT college organization. Sessions argued that the student group should be defunded because it advocated illegal sexual activities. (Ultimately the law he defended was ruled unconstitutional.) In 2005 Jeff Sessions was one of nine senators who opposed an amendment to a House bill that would prohibit cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of individuals under control of the US government. More recently he has endorsed expansion of a border fence with Mexico and banning same-sex marriage nationwide, and he opposes the Affordable Care Act.