AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Susan Walsh

Team Trump touts Sessions’ ‘strong civil rights record’

It’s not unusual for a president’s team to provide allies with talking points, especially when dealing with controversial nominees, but as a rule, the talking points should try to be credible. Keep that in mind when reading this Politico report from yesterday.
President-elect Donald Trump’s team is advising Senate Republicans to promote Jeff Sessions’ deep familiarity with the Justice Department, his “strong civil rights record” and that he is “known for his deep respect and adherence to the rule of law” as senators talk about the his nomination as attorney general. […]

“Even individuals who voted against Sen. Sessions’ confirmation 30 years ago ultimately regretted it,” the talking points added.
Look, Jeff Sessions has a long career in public service at a variety of levels, and I’m sure his office can come up with a variety of notable accomplishments that the Alabaman can point to during his confirmation hearings.

But putting “Jeff Sessions” and “strong civil rights record” in the same sentence is a problem.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/18/16, 9:21 PM ET

Racism concerns surround Jeff Sessions as Trump's AG pick

Ari Berman, senior writer for The Nation, talks with Rachel Maddow about the racism in Senator Jeff Sessions’ past and the alarm over Donald Trump selection of Sessions to serve as the next attorney general of the United States.
As we discussed in May, The New Republic published a piece in 2002 on Sessions’ background, which included a stint as a U.S. Attorney, when his most notable prosecution targeted three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

The piece added that Sessions, during his career in Alabama, allegedly called the NAACP “un-American” because, among other things, it “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions pointed to an instance in which he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans.

What’s more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later said that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

The Washington Post noted this morning that Sessions has denied making many of these and related comments, but when then-President Reagan nominated Sessions for the federal bench in 1986, the Senate nevertheless rejected him because of his controversial record on race.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights published a letter to Senate leaders yesterday on Sessions’ record, opposing his nomination and documenting many of his stated positions. Anyone who believes the Republican senator has a “strong civil rights record” might want to take a look.

Jeff Sessions

Team Trump touts Sessions' 'strong civil rights record'