WASHINGTON — A senator who will wield significant influence in Sen. Jeff Sessions’ upcoming attorney general confirmation process is pledging to keep Democrats from engaging in the type of character assassination that doomed Sessions’ confirmation to a federal judgeship 30 years ago.
“Democratic members of the committee have pledged a fair process,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters after meeting with Sessions Tuesday morning. “Based on those commitments, I trust the other side will resist what some liberal interest groups are clearly hoping for — an attack on his character. That will not happen here.”
Senate Democrats have hinted at a protracted confirmation battle, based largely on hearsay from 30 years ago that claimed Sen. Sessions had made racially insensitive comments.
Prominent African American and civil rights leaders have rushed to Sessions’ defense this year, arguing that his record shows he will ensure equal justice for all Americans as the country’s top law enforcement officer.
“I worked closely with Senator Sessions while he was US Attorney and I was in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department,” said legendary civil rights attorney Barry Kowalski. “This was during the 1980s when many southern US attorneys were not always welcoming to the Civil Rights Division working in their districts. However, Senator Sessions could not have been more supportive of our investigations, and in the Michael Donald case specifically, he personally contributed to making sure his killers were brought to justice.”
“I am a 71-year-old African-American man, and I think I know a racist when I see one,” added Larry Thompson, who served as Deputy Attorney General during the Bush administration. “Jeff Sessions is simply a good and decent man. As a former federal prosecutor, Jeff knows the workings of the Justice Department inside and out. He is thoroughly familiar with the legal issues the department will face. He will carry out his duties in a professional, thoughtful and balanced manner.”
In spite of Democrats’ desire for a fight, Sen. Grassley, who provides over the Judiciary Committee, pointed to other recent confirmations as a blueprint for how he will oversee Sessions’ confirmation process.
“The hearings for the four most recent Attorneys General lasted one to two days each. And at each of those hearings, three to nine outside witnesses testified,” he said. “Nine witnesses testified at the hearing for Attorney General Lynch, seven witnesses testified at the hearings for Attorneys General Holder and Mukasey, and three witnesses testified at the hearing for Attorney General Gonzales.”
“Senator Sessions will receive the fair and thorough vetting process he deserves, as have the last four nominees to be Attorney General,” Grassley concluded.