Al Franken destroys Sessions’ supposed ‘civil rights record’ in less than 10 minutes
Al Franken never went to law school, but during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing Tuesday, he grilled the president-elect’s attorney general-designate in a cross-examination worthy of “Law and Order,” getting Sessions to admit he misrepresented his purported “civil rights record” on numerous occasions and lied about his involvement spearheading desegregation cases.
Sessions, whose own bigoted history matches that of the Confederate generals he’s named after, has sought to fashion a record of championing civil rights cases out of thin air. In 2009, he told the National Review, “I filed 20 or 30 civil-rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations and county commissions when I was a United States attorney” — cases which he and others have highlighted as proof allegations he is a white supremacist are smears. Only problem is, he didn’t work on “20 or 30″ desegregation cases, and on Tuesday, Senator Franken, to use the parlance of our times, came with receipts.
“‘Twenty or 30 desegregation cases,’ did I misread that quote?” Franken asked.
“I believe that’s what I’ve been quoted as saying, and I suspect I said that,” Sessions replied, which is exactly the way I sounded as a teen when I knew my mother was about to call me out for some bullshit I was hoping to get away with.
“Okay now that was 2009, but in November of this year, your office said, ‘when Senator Sessions was U.S. attorney, he filed a number of desegregation lawsuits in Alabama,'” Franken continued. “Not ’20 or 30′ this time, but ‘a number.’ So tell me, did you file 20 or 30 desegregation cases or is it some other number?”
“Well… the records don’t show that there were 20 or 30 actually filed cases,” Sessions admitted. “The number would be less than that.” Much less than that, in fact. A December investigation into the claim by The Atlantic found the actual number is probably closer to zero. In fact, they found no evidence of any school-desegregation cases filed at all after Sessions because a U.S. attorney in Alabama.
Franken was just getting started, however. He brought up three civil rights cases Sessions had said he “personally handled,” and then quoted three Justice Department lawyers who worked on the cases who claim Sessions’ involvement consisted on signing his name on the complaint, motions, and briefs.
“I’m not a lawyer… but it seems to me that if a lawyer has just his name added to a document here or a filing there, that lawyer would be misrepresenting his record if he said he ‘personally handled’ these cases,” Franken said. He specifically quoted one of the Justice Department lawyers, Joseph Rich, who said he never worked with Sessions on any civil rights cases.
“I don’t know Mr. Rich…” Sessions said, apparently attempting to say he couldn’t speak to his claims, not realizing it’d be pretty damn hard for him to have spearheaded a case Rich worked on if the two never even met.
“One of the cases that you listed is a case that Mr. Rich handled,” Franken said. “So if you don’t know him, it’s hard for me to believe that you ‘personally handled’ it.”
The whole exchange is a good example of how Democratic senators need to hold Trump’s appointees accountable during these confirmation hearings and moving forward in the administration; because, unfortunately, even though he was caught in several lies, Sessions is still going to be appointed. The Democrats’ best hope now is in consistently showing the public just how awful the appointments are.
“Setting aside any political or idealogical differences that you and I may have,” Franken concluded, “The D.O.J. is facing real challenges, whether protecting civil rights, or defending national security. And our country needs an attorney general who doesn’t misrepresent or inflate their level of involvement on any given issue.”