Through his questioning, Senator Al Franken exposed Jeff Sessions’ lies about his civil rights record in his questionnaire to the committee. The first lie Franken exposed was on the number of segregation cases Sessions filed as State Attorney for Alabama.
During an interview, Sessions said he filed 20 to 30 cases. When Franken questioned him, however, Sessions acknowledged through a word salad answer that he inflated the numbers.
The padding of Sessions involvement in civil rights recorded didn’t end with that interview. He did it again in his answer to question 15 in the Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire he completed for his confirmation hearing as Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General.
“Describe the ten (10) most significant litigated matters which you personally handled, whether or not you were the attorney of record.” Four of the cases Sessions listed were civil rights cases.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, J. Gerald Hebert, Joseph D. Rich and William Yeomans, the lawyers who worked on the civil rights cases Sessions identified, said the following about his involvement.
We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it.
In other words, Sessions lied about his involvement in those cases. This gets more interesting since, according to the attorneys, Sessions made no mention of these cases in response a similar question for his failed attempt to become a Federal Court judge. At that time, he “chose to highlight his criminal prosecutions.”
In other words, Sessions lied about his involvement in civil rights cases on the questionnaire. When Franken brought this out, Sessions dug a bigger hole for himself by admitting he didn’t know one of the lawyers on one of the cases, Sessions identified as one of the most significant cases he worked on.
Imagine if Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch lied about the extent of their involvement in four of the 10 most significant cases they worked on. Republicans would have demanded that charges of perjury be filed.
In fact, following Hillary Clinton’s testimony on the email “scandal”, Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Bob Goodlatte sent a letter of referral to the U.S. Attorney for DC requesting an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton committed the crime of perjury for allegedly lying to congress when she testified that she did not send or receive emails marked classified on her private server.
As we know, the letter of referral didn’t result in a prosecution simply because Hillary Clinton didn’t perjure herself. It did, however, provide Republicans with a narrative that would combine with other facts to ultimately hurt Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. The media coverage was massive, achieving the real objective of the Republicans’ “investigation” of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Throughout the campaign, significant numbers of people believed Hillary Clinton was not honest.
Here we’ve got Jeff Sessions whose public statements and voting record show the issues that resulted in his rejection in 1986 remained the same, with the added factor that he lied to suggest his attitudes on civil rights had become more enlightened.
Sessions lied about his involvement in civil rights cases because his public statements and his voting record on civil rights were disturbing enough to result in rejection of his bid for a Federal Judgeship. So he lied, as Republicans portrayed him as a hero for civil rights, a reformed racist and therefore well suited for the position of Attorney-General.
Yet, crickets from the media and not much more than crickets from Democrats. Part of it lies in the fact that Republicans are hoping to overwhelm us with a volume of news in the name of preventing any in-depth analysis. But part of it is also about playing by the rules of decorum – which no longer apply and have not apply for eight years.
To say this is disappointing is an understatement. I’m not suggesting that Democrats indulge in stunts or the sort of hyperbole and lies that are standard procedure for the Republican Party. Facts matter and when facts are distorted, in this case to create the illusion that Sessions is a civil rights hero, those distortions have to be exposed.
America deserves better than what it got from Senators who emphasized camaraderie with a fellow Senator over the troubling aspects of Sessions’ history, and views that make him unsuited to the position of Attorney-General. An Attorney-General’s attitude toward civil rights is indicative of how much priority they will place on protecting those rights and for whom.
America deserves an Attorney-General who honestly believes that civil rights for all matter. The very fact that Sessions padded his involvement in civil rights cases is a red flag to the fact that he lacks this trait. The fact that he padded his record on civil rights and the reasons for it warrant recognition as such.