Senate

Jeff Sessions Provides Slippery Answers at Confirmation Hearings, Thanks to Senatorial Decorum

Attorney general confirmation hearings continue today; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to testify against Sessions.

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What, me worry?
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The second day of confirmation hearings into the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general takes place today, beginning with a series of testimonials from witnesses who will then be questioned by members of the committee.

Reason's Eric Boehm noted that Sessions got away with offering only "unclear, useless answers on marijuana" during the first day of hearings, and some liberals wanted a more contentious hearing with aggressive questioning from the committee's Democratic senators and less of the Senate's typically staid rules of decorum that often provides cover for evasive answers.

Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told CNN, "The first day of Senator Sessions' confirmation hearing proved that the rushed nature of the confirmation process places senatorial collegiality over the advice and consent responsibilities that are the Senate's constitutional duty."

Late in the first day of hearings yesterday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) noted that police unions adore Sessions, to which Sessions added he believes the Obama administration failed to provide adequate support for local police departments. Sessions promised that as attorney general, he would place fewer restrictions on federal financial assistance to local PDs (who sometimes lose federal grant funding for lack of compliance with federal law) and cut back on efforts designed to curtail police misconduct.

Sessions also reiterated his skepticism of consent decrees—federally enforced reforms and monitoring imposed by the courts on cities with demonstrated records of police misconduct. Sessions hedged just a bit in his opposition to consent decrees, saying some consent decrees "could be a legitimate decision." In the foreward for a 2008 paper published by the Alabama Policy Institute, Sessions wrote, "One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees."

Ex-Reasoner Radley Balko posted in his Washington Post column a series of excellent questions pertaining to civil liberties and federalism that Sessions should be asked (but likely won't):

You said this in 2007: "The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation's security." Do you believe these two things are incompatible? If sworn in as attorney general, you'll take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. Let's say that once in office, you're faced with a situation in which you believe it is necessary to violate the Constitution in order to protect national security. Let's say that the actions you think you need to take aren't constitutionally ambiguous — you yourself believe they're unconstitutional. What would you do?

You're also a strong advocate of "states' rights," or federalism. Many states whose legislatures don't share your view of civil asset forfeiture have passed laws to restrict or even end the practice. The federal government responded with its "equitable sharing" program, which allows police agencies in such states to call up a federal law enforcement agency such as the Drug Enforcement Administration when they want to confiscate some property. The investigation is then considered "federal," which means it's controlled by federal forfeiture laws, not the more restrictive state laws. This would seem to be a direct infringement on the intent of those states' legislatures, wouldn't you agree? The Obama administration has tried to limit the practice, though it hasn't ended it. Would you repeal the Obama reforms to equitable sharing, strengthen them or end them?

Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization. You recently said that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and that the drug is "already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal." You've been critical of Obama and his Justice Department for not cracking down on the states that have legalized the drug. Can you point to any data from Colorado or Washington that demonstrates a "disturbance?"

Among those who testified against Sessions in the first part of today's hearing were American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Legal Director David Cole, NAACP President Cornell Brooks, and sexual assault survivor's advocate Amita Swadhin.

Those appearing in support of Sessions include Commission on Civil Rights member Peter Kirsanow (who said while a member of the commission in 2002, "Not too many people will be crying in their beer if there are more detentions, more stops, more profiling" of Muslims), former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, and former Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Unfortunately for anyone seeking a substantive grilling of how Sessions would enforce federal law as attorney general, senators of both parties essentially stuck to the script of asking witnesses to provide answers which confirm the senator's own politics, but which offer little scrutiny of Sessions and his policies.

For example, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked Chuck Canterbury—the president of the nation's largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police—a question about police confrontations with mentally ill people. Then after receiving a vague answer, Cornyn assured Canterbury, "I think you'll find a friend in Sen. Sessions as attorney general in recognizing the priorities for local and state law enforcement…" That was followed by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) asking Army veteran and former DREAMER Oscar Vazquez "Are you concerned about what might happen under the new administration for young people registered under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)?" Vazquez's answer was of course, yes.

Later today, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will testify against Sessions—a major break in the aforementioned senatorial decorum, which some conservatives suspect is motivated by Booker's presidential ambitions. Booker told the Washington Post that while he likes Sessions persionally, "This is a time where I think that silence is not just unacceptable," adding that he worries a Sessions-led Justice Department could "undermine" criminal justice reform, civil rights, and "the advancement of gays and lesbians in this country."

NEXT: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Does Gun Rights a Favor

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  1. Sessions sucks, but it’s not because (as the left has been claiming) he’s a RACIST.

    He’s a hyooge fan of asset forfeiture, his position on MJ and Marijuana smokers – is ridiculous, and in general he’s way too much of a fan of state power and not of govt restraint.

    but with PissGate going on, not much attention being paid to this stuff

    1. That stupid story is going to prove a huge own-goal by the left. And I hope Buzzfeed gets Gawker’d because of it.

    2. Not that it excuses Sessions (or Lynch or Holder or …) but action on both asset forfeiture and MJ legalization can and should come from Congress. The most relevant questions for Sessions concern whether he will enforce the law and how; if the law needs to be changed, the place for that to happen is the legislature.

      1. ^^This. You want Federally legal pot and an end to civil asset forfeiture? Persuade Congress.

      2. Except, of course, that Sessions has the authority, granted by Congress, to reschedule marijuana. Full legalization is definitely up to Congress, but going from Schedule I to Schedule V would be a big improvement. And would make it easier for Congress to legalize.

        1. In tandem with a recommendation from HHS, yes. That he’s not willing to look at the matter (or at least, doesn’t seem to be from his confirmation hearing answers) is a legit line of criticism against him.

        2. Perhaps, but I wish congress would do it on their own.

          1. Congress should legalize on their own. But the people who are in a position to reschedule it and aren’t doing so are also not doing their jobs as defined by the law. There is absolutely no question at this point that pot does not belong on Schedule 1.

  2. Great, a libertarian website strongly advocating for massive Federal power at the Department of Justice. What could possibly go wrong….

    1. What are you talking about?

    2. Yes, elaboration would be helpful here.

    3. BigW,
      Who pissed in your cheerios? Let me guess, it was Trump!

      1. And after his pissed in BigW’s cheerios, he tweeted about it.

    4. Reading comprehension issue?

  3. “The first day of Senator Sessions’ confirmation hearing proved that the rushed nature of the confirmation process places senatorial collegiality over the advice and consent responsibilities that are the Senate’s constitutional duty.”

    This is all a formality for Sessions.

    Sessions will be confirmed on a partisan vote. There isn’t anything that’s going to come out about Sessions because of confirmation hearings that would jeopardize his confirmation.

    Bork, Thomas, Miers: Those are the exceptions, not the rule. Supreme Court confirmations are more contentious–as well they should be.

    1. it’s a bit disingenuous, particularly from a body that previously confirmed ex-members Kerry and Hillary as SoS. These folks know Sessions and he was not portrayed as evil incarnate when working with them, even when co-sponsoring a measure with the same Cory Booker who will be posturing in an early bid to become a 2020 Dem presidential candidate.

      1. Yep. Booker is going full Dem retard in hopes of being the first gay or next black President.

        1. Well, first officially gay, or second badly closeted gay.

          1. Power bottom?

    2. Possibly not. Paul has already stated his opposition to Sessions. One more and the party line isn’t enough.

  4. Bork, Thomas, Miers: Those are the exceptions, not the rule. Supreme Court confirmations are more contentious–as well they should be.

    Yes, and what do these three all have in common? Two of them also have something in common (and it was almost all three). Why is it that these three went through much more rigourous vetting, yet other recent nominees have received kid glove treatment?

    1. Yes, and what do these three all have in common?

      Herpes?

    2. Bork is a lunatic and Miers was a Bush hack.

      And they only went after Thomas because he was black.

      1. While Miers being a Bush hack no doubt played a part in some of the contentiousness behind her confirmation hearings, the fact that she was completely ignorant of constitutional law as well as Supreme Court precedent and procedure was probably the bigger issue.

      2. Disagree on Bork; he’s no worse, in totality, than any of the other SCOTUS noms and successful appointments. Kagan, in particular, is worse than Bork, IMO, yet sailed through totally unscathed. There have been plenty of questionable TEAM Blue SCOTUS candidates brought forth; are you seriously going to tell me that none of them were stinkers? (And we definitely, ahem, dodged a bullet with Garland…who wasn’t going to get the nom anyway – Obumbles would have rescinded the nom as soon as Shrill-Bot won for much more Progressive nom.)

        Agreed on Miers (who was a terrible choice and a “moderate” sop, at best), and Thomas (Progressive minorities only need apply).

        Still, the point I implied of the ratchet only going one way still stands, since, overall, there is an implied agreement that each team confirms noms, lest the other team’s nom’s be rebuked and denied.

        1. Bork was (metaphorically) hanged because of his personal views. His actual jurisprudence was pretty decent.

        2. Bork was terrible and got worse as he got older.

          Bork believed that only expressly political speech was covered under the 1st, thought the 2nd only meant the government couldn’t prevent you from joining the National Guard, and supported heavy regulation of the market. He was an anti-porn crusader, a drug war and a cop supporter on a level that would make Scalia blanch.

          Keeping him off SCOTUS was the only good thing Fat Teddy ever did for America.

          1. Dude, they’re majorities, end of discussion

        3. >Still, the point I implied of the ratchet only going one way still stands, since, overall, there is an implied >agreement that each team confirms noms, lest the other team’s nom’s be rebuked and denied.

          I think the implied agreement might exist for minor appointments, but not so much for the big ones. Otherwise, why did Harry Reid (D-espicable) use the so-called “nuclear option”, so he no longer needed 60 votes (only 50 +1) to invoke cloture and have votes on some of the Dem’s judicial nominees? The Republicans didn’t want to vote on some of the the Dem’s nominees, so he cut them out of the process. Of course, the Dems have stalled Repub nominees at other times. And, as you implied, it is pretty much only the Democrats who wage full-scale war against the other party’s Supreme Court nominees.

          My guess is the Democrats don’t worry that much about the prospect of the Republicans denying Democrat nominees. For one thing, Democrats generally all vote for Democrat nominees, no matter how bad they are, so they seldom need Republican votes. Two, they can usually count on the Republicans to roll over, even when the Dems nominate the likes of Kagan and Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, where they can be relied upon to approve Democrat policies. (Frankly, I was surprised the Senate didn’t cave on Garland.) Finally, the Democrats can use the media to bash the Republicans if the Repubs put up the the slightest sign of resistance to a nominee. The ratchet does seem to go only one way.

    3. Yes, and what do these three all have in common?

      They like to wear no clothing under black robes?

      1. Why do Supreme Court Justices wear robes?

        Because a sheep can hear a zipper from a mile away.

    4. Yes, and what do these three all have in common?

      In seriousness, it’s a little disconcerting that those 3 were nominated by a Republican President and received that treatment, yet similarly ideological or ignorant Dem noms do not.

      1. Yup. Unilateral disarmament is tantamount to surrender.

        Kagan should never have been approved by Congress, for example. But now we’re stuck with an Obama toady on the Court.

        1. But everyone keeps telling me that the Republicans did nothing but obstruct everything that poor Obama tried to do, the big meanies. How can this be?

    5. “Yes, and what do these three all have in common?”

      They were all Supreme Court nominees who had contentious Senate confirmation hearings (or some variation thereof).

  5. The fragile echoes of microscopic racism cause alarm? even as the braying juggernaut of Session’s iron fist punching through constitutional ethos creates ire and recoil only from the fucking basement press consistently stoic, alone, and battling for freedom.

    1. Exactly.

  6. “One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees.”

    Perhaps we could rely on more effective measures at the local level; like, say, limiting qualified immunity in order to make officers personally responsible for their conduct in a meaningful way….

    Oh, shoot.

    1. If you read the linked piece, he’s not talking specifically about PD and DoJ consent decrees, he’s talking generally about the sorts of friendly-lawsuit decrees whereby agencies like the EPA are “forced” by some environmentalist group to spend more money and enforce stricter standards on some crap that Congress didn’t necessarily envision them doing. And those consent decrees are then legally binding on the agency moreso than the agency’s own directives are, a new agency head can’t just come in and say “oh, we’re not going to do that any more” and repeal or rescind the regulation. It’s essentially judge-made legislation.

      And I agree with him 1000% on that.

  7. Once again, no, he wasn’t unclear at all. The message was: If I have the funding and can get away with it, I’m coming for your potheads. Period. Nothing unclear at all.

    1. Once again, no, he wasn’t unclear at all. The message was: If I have the funding and can get away with it, I’m coming for your potheads.

      Which is why the founders gave us the second amendment – to arm free citizens against a tyrannical state.

  8. Sessions also reiterated his skepticism of consent decrees?federally enforced reforms and monitoring imposed by the courts on cities with demonstrated records of police misconduct.

    Alabama politician doesn’t like federal courts telling state and local authorities to stop violating people’s civil rights. Well, at least he knows how to play a role.

    1. One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the
      issuance of expansive court decrees. Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal
      system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process. Such decrees are
      particularly offensive when certain governmental agencies secretly delight in being sued
      because they hope a settlement will be reached resulting in the agency receiving more
      money than what the legislative branch or other funding source would otherwise have
      deemed justified. Thus, the taxpayers ultimately fund the settlement enacted through this
      undemocratic process.
      A consent decree is the equivalent of a legislative enactment created at the hands
      of the courts, and often less subject to modification. By entering into these decrees,
      current state executives, such as Governors or Attorneys General, can bind the hands of
      future state executives and legislatures. A predecessor’s consent decree is difficult to
      alter or end; in practice, a decree can last for many years ? longer than the remedy that
      was needed. I have witnessed, first hand, the use of these decrees and the constitutional
      questions that can arise. Thus, I applaud the effort of the authors of this paper to draw
      renewed focus to the issue.

  9. Look, once again, what happened to the Rohrabacher Amendment? Hasn’t Congress protected those states with legal medical marijuana from being harassed by the feds?

    1. Apparently it has to be renewed every year because it was part of a spending bill.

  10. Confirmation hearings are a joke. If you’ve ever watched one you’d seriously question why the exist. It’s just a giant circle-jerk of the senators spewing their fake realities and grandstanding, either positioning themselves for future power or to be used for fundraising.

    The only reason Corker is there is because Democrats want him to be the new Obama. There’s no way Warren or Sanders can run in 2020, so let’s have this guy say all the right things at the hearing.

  11. The thing that’s driving me nuts about some of the nominees is that there’s plenty of shit to go after them for if you like to claim the fig leaf of civil liberties.

    But no, it’s RACISM!!! all the way down.

  12. But didn’t you find it troubling that those OBVIOUS KKK members broke into the hearing and started cheering for Sessions? What does it say when Sessions has the KKK cheering him on, as those men obviously were? Can we really afford to have an Attorney General who is a klan member?

  13. Booker is a typical liberal piece of you know what. NJ voters wasted their vote on this obozo clone.

    Senator Sessions’ has more knowledge and ethical standards then booker a billary deplorable.

  14. I did not hear “slippery” in his answers, that’s impugned by the the critic, when he said he would follow the Law it said it all, Congress needs to get it’s limited government house in order..Drug Legalization is not the end all be all, Decriminalization yes. The States need to do the heavy lifting, and studies, is it ok, or not, some early evidence not so good. We hope people stop the initial Euphoria, it’s proving negative consequences.

  15. Sessions is a prog – a guy who thinks the government has unlimited powers.

    Sessions, can you point where in the US Constitution it states the government can dictate what citizens can put into their own bodies?

    Well, punk, can you???

    1. >Well, punk, can you???

      “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan

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