A group of 1,226 law professors has published an open letter opposing the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the position of Attorney General in President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
The letter, addressed to Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refers to objections that were raised three decades ago, when Sessions was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal judge but was not confirmed.
“In 1986, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan vote, rejected President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of then-U.S. Attorney Sessions for a federal judgeship, due to statements Sessions had made that reflected prejudice against African Americans,” the letter states. “Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us 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.”
Sessions has denied making the statements attributed to him, including accusations that he once referred to a black attorney as a “boy” and joked about the Ku Klux Klan. He said at the time of his judicial confirmation hearings, according to CNN: “I am not a racist, I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality, and fairness for all.” He also led efforts to shut down the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama through civil litigation.
The signatories include several Ivy League luminaries, including President Barack Obama’s former professor at Harvard, Laurence Tribe, and Yale’s Harold Koh, who infamously “flip-flopped” on the question of the president’s executive power to wage war without congressional approval when justifying Obama’s war in Libya.
Also among the signatories is Harvard professor Lani Guinier, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton to lead the civil rights division at the Department of Justice in 1993, but whose nomination was withdrawn after some of her “anti-democratic” past writings were revealed.
The letter does not refer to anything else in Sessions’s record that might be seen as disqualifying, but makes a number of political objections:
Some of us have concerns about his misguided prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, and his consistent promotion of the myth of voter-impersonation fraud. Some of us have concerns about his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border. Some of us have concerns about his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration. Some of us have concerns about his questioning of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Some of us have concerns about his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community. Some of us share all of these concerns.
Some of Sessions’s allies have reacted angrily to the letter. The Washington Post reports: “Sessions’s former chief counsel William Smith, who is African American, has said that people who call Sessions racially insensitive are ‘just lying. And they should stop the smear campaign.'”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.