Having lost the presidential election to Donald J. Trump, and now with minorities in both the House and the Senate, Democrats have scrambled to throw roadblocks in the way of the incoming administration in an effort to slow down the inevitable policy changes that will soon affect every area of national policy, including the administration of justice. To that end, Sen. Jeff Sessions has been attacked ever since Trump nominated him to be the next attorney general of the United States. The familiar leitmotif is that Sessions is a racist, stemming from decades-old, questionable allegations of potentially racist statements. A further implication is the tired canard that many men of his age and background — white, Southern Republican lawmakers — are inclined to be racist, guilty until proven otherwise.
But what is Sessions’ true flaw? He is a conservative Republican who believes in traditional conservative policies and does not pay homage to political correctness to score political points.
Here is Sessions’ actual record on civil rights issues:
Sessions sought to amend the Violence Against Women Act so that it would actually help vulnerable women, instead of blindly supporting the act because of its name. With Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sessions led senate efforts to pass the Finding Fugitive Sex Offender Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Sessions has worked tirelessly to pass bipartisan legislation to protect and support the victims of crime, enact policies for safer prisons, and promote fair sentencing practices, issue areas important to minority communities. He worked across the aisle with Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2003 to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act, providing protection to perhaps the most voiceless members of our society.
Sessions voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, deeming it a vital protection for voting rights, though he recognized the act’s shortcomings and intrusiveness in some respects.
He understands the value of law enforcement, who are on the front lines of protecting Americans’ rights and safety, and has sought to work with law enforcement officers instead of criticizing and demeaning them, as has become so fashionable these days.
Sessions has supported strong voter ID measures and other procedures to protect the integrity of elections, rightly recognizing that when elections are stolen, it is often the underprivileged who are the greatest victims, because they have little recourse.
Sessions prosecuted civil rights activists under charges of fraudulently changing the votes of African-American voters in 1985, earning him the derision of liberals for being racist despite the fact that he was seeking to vindicate minority voting rights, based on complaints by African-American officials and voters that others in their community had committed fraud.
Sessions first began his efforts to achieve sentencing parity for drug offenders in 2001. Nine years later, he finally managed to realize this goal by working with Sen. Dick Durbin to pass the Crack Cocaine Fair Sentencing Act in 2010. This legislation substantially benefits minority drug offenders who previously were subjected to wide sentencing disparities vis-à-vis powder cocaine users.
Sessions opposed George Wallace in the 1960s in Alabama, prosecuted actual racists, and led Senate efforts to honor the civil rights movement and leaders. Former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and Labor Secretary Tom Perez has repeatedly praised Sessions in speeches.
Sessions’ career as both a prosecutor and Senator has been devoted to upholding the rule of law. He has done so because he is the kind of man and leader who will fight for what is right and what is best despite the criticism he faces, from whatever quarter.
Those who have worked with Sessions and know his character have strongly endorsed Sessions. His diverse supporters include the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, President Bill Clinton’s FBI Director Louis Freeh, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Victims of Crime and Leniency of Alabama, former Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Gerald Reynolds, several former U.S. attorneys general, 25 state attorneys general, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
Albert Turner Jr., son of the African-American activists prosecuted for voter fraud, rejects the idea that Sessions is a racist: “He is not a racist. … He was a prosecutor at the Federal level with a job to do. He was presented with evidence by a local District Attorney that he relied on, and his office presented the case. That’s what a prosecutor does. … I believe that he is someone with whom I, and others in the civil rights community can work if given the opportunity.” Former African-American Democratic Congressman Artur Davis described the voter ID laws that Sessions supports as “the right thing” to help prevent “the wholesale manufacture of ballots [, which is] the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community.”
African-American Alabama Democratic Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross said of his long relationship with Sessions, “We’ve spoken about everything from civil rights to race relations and we agree that as Christian men our hearts and minds are focused on doing right by all people. We both acknowledge that there are no perfect men, but we continue to work daily to do the right thing for all people.” The African-American founders of Victims and Friends United, a diverse organization devoted to protecting the rights of victims of crime, stated in their endorsement letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, “We have searched his background and could find no evidence that he is biased toward people of color.”
Prior to his years of service in the Senate, Sessions served as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, meaning he was the chief federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Alabama, and later as attorney general of Alabama. Few attorneys general have been so well qualified for the job of the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, as is Sessions.
Liberals lauded the attorneys general during the Obama administration, while conveniently ignoring how the Department of Justice was being turned into a political tool to advance progressive social policies instead of enforcing the law as it is supposed to do. Unequal enforcement of the law threatens all citizens. It is not the place of the attorney general to make new law, but rather to enforce the existing federal laws enacted by the legislature, or enshrined in our Constitution.
Jeff Sessions is precisely the sort of leader that the Department of Justice needs to protect the rights of all citizens — including women and minorities — through the equal application of the law and the even-handed promotion of justice. Liberal opponents do themselves no credit by attempting to assassinate the character of a good public servant in the pursuit of a quixotic goal. President-elect Trump is entitled to appoint cabinet members of his choosing, so long as they are fit for the job, as Sessions indisputably is — and as his Senate colleagues well know. Sessions should be swiftly confirmed so that the new administration can proceed with the task of filling out the rest of the top Department of Justice appointments, and then get on with the business of enforcing federal law throughout the land.
Harmeet Kaur Dhillon is a trial lawyer in San Francisco at the Dhillon Law Group, and currently serves as the RNC committeewoman from California. From 2013 to 2016, she was the vice chair of the California Republican Party.