Jeff Sessions is trying to overcome his well-documented racist history by repackaging himself as some kind of civil rights hero. It might work with a Republican Senate that’s just looking for a fig leaf worth of cover for making Sessions the attorney general, but there are plenty of people out there who know the reality and are ready to speak out about it. Three former Justice Department civil rights lawyers have written an op-ed in the Washington Post exploding some of Sessions’ BS:
In the questionnaire he filed recently with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions (R-Ala.) listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated “personally” as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. Following criticism for exaggerating his role, he then claimed that he provided “assistance and guidance” on these cases.
We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it.Sessions not only didn’t have anything substantive to do with the cases, he also didn’t think they were important at the time. When he was nominated to be a federal judge back in 1986—a nomination he left off that Judiciary Committee questionnaire—and ultimately rejected for being too damn racist, he didn’t mention these civil rights cases he’s now claiming to have been intimately involved in. No,
In both the 1986 questionnaire and his confirmation hearings (at which one of us, J. Gerald Hebert, testified), Sessions indicated that he discussed civil rights cases with department attorneys only when they came to Mobile, Ala., to get him to sign complaints. He also said he did not try any civil cases himself while U.S. attorney, focusing instead on criminal prosecutions. Indeed, he said it was Tom Figures — the same African American assistant whom Sessions allegedly called “boy” — who handled all of the office’s civil rights cases. It therefore makes sense that his 1986 questionnaire included so many criminal cases and no civil rights matters. That renders even more suspect his recent efforts to claim his colleagues’ civil rights experience as his own.If Sessions really, sincerely wanted to show that concerns that he’s too much of a racist to be put in charge of the nation’s civil rights enforcement were misplaced, the way to do that would be to show that he’s changed since 1986. He’d have real accomplishments since then to point to—and joining a unanimous vote to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act does not count. But instead, he’s trying to rewrite the past, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee very different things about his record in the 1980s than he told the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. It’s almost unbelievably obvious and cynical … but it’s good enough for today’s Republicans.