Senate Judiciary Committee Votes on Attorney General Nomination CSPAN January 31, 2017 11:06am-12:01pm EST
countries who help us with the state department, with the military. what message are we sending to them if the united states is not going to stand up and protect them? the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house in recess until noon today.
it happened after vietnam. it happened after the fall of yugoslavia. and now where are we today. because of the executive orders of this president, he's called into question over a half century commitment to accepting refugees from around the world. people who have been victims of persecution and genocide and terrorism and war are to be excluded. and is it because of a real threat to our country? exactly how many syrian refugees have been accused of terrorism in the united states of america? none. not one. and when you do the lengthy history of 40 years-plus of all of the millions of refugees who come to this country, you could count on one hand those who
have done us wrong. and they were let into the country long before the vetting we now have in place. it is disgraceful the language that was used during the campaign by candidate donald rump when it came to refugees. disgraceful. i met with these syrian refugee families and i welcome those who are critical of them to take a few minutes and meet them and hear their stories. and you will come to realize what is at stake here. it is our reputation in the world. and when president donald trump offers these executive orders, authored by senator sessions, former staffers, of course we have questions. and we should. this to me, it's the heart of why we are having this hearing and why we are spending this time. since world war ii we have tried to set a standard for the
world. i am saddened that 12 days into this administration president trump is trying to redefine america in the eyes of the world. much was said in earlier comments about senator sessions' work on criminal justice reform. i have a unique and personal perspective on that. senator sessions and i have disagreed on a lot of issues. there was one, though, that we tried to work together on and we achieved something. i've cast thousands of votes as a member of the house and the senate. i am proud of almost all of them, but i'm embarrassed by one. and i'll tell you what it was because it should be a matter of record here as we debate this nomination of senator sessions. i'm turning to a book here called "white rage" by carol anderson who teaches at emery. i gave a copy of this book to senator sessions when he came by my office because i was
hoping he might get a chance to read it. dr. anderson talks about 1986 when congress passed the anti-drug abuse act which stipulated mandatory sentencing and emphasized punishment over treatment. it created a 100-1 disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine based on the myth that the cheap narcotic rock was more addictive than its powdered form. i remember those days. i was in the house. it was also the time when a spectacular basketball player from maryland, lynn, overdosed on cocaine and died. at the same time we were hold there is a new form of cocaine on the street, it's dirt cheap, it's lethal, it's addictive, and if a pregnant woman uses it she will cause incalculateable harm to the fetus and so i voted, sad to say i voted for this anti-drug abuse act.
the 100-1 sentencing. over the years i came to realize what a terrible mistake i had made as we filled our prisons across america primarily with african-americans for interm nablely long sentences under the mandatory sentencing of that law. so i set out to do something about it in the senate. i introduced a bill that brought that disparity from 100-1 to 1-1, reflecting the reality that there was no difference between powder cocaine and crack cocaine and they should be sentenced accordingly. at the time senator graham stepped away, had a measure which reduced it from 100-1 to 10-1. senator sessions' measure reduced it 20-1. each of those was an combrorment and i came down to a direct negotiation with senator sessions. could he and i agree on a number to bring some justice to this unjust situation? i can't tell you how we reached it but we did. we reached the number 18.
and that was the fair sentencing act. and it said that the disparity would be reduced from 100-1 to 18- 2 the net impact of that affected thousands of federal prisoners who were given a chance to have their prison sentences under this old 100-1 law reviewed individually by judges and prosecutors to see if they would be allowed to be freed. many were. we saved thousands of prison years in the federal system because of the bill that i co-sponsored with senator sessions. it passed this committee. it passed the floor of the senate by a voice vote, and the same thing in the senate in both the house judiciary committee -- pardon me -- in the house judiciary committee and on the floor and signed in an almost private ceremony by president obama which senator sessions and i attended. i then turned to senator sessions and said, what about those serving time who can't
under our law as written have the right to appeal their unjust sentence? will you join me in a letter to the sentencing commission encouraging them to give these individual prisoners a chance? and he said, no. i then asked him to join me with senator grassley in the criminal justice reform bill which for the 5,000 remaining prisoners, 100-1, they would get that individual consideration and he said, no. so there was that shining moment when we worked together to bring it to 18-1, but little or no followthrough when it came to what i considered to be a consistent approach in dealing with justice in criminal sentencing. when senator sessions came by my office we talked about a lot of things, but i talked especially about one prisoner who i invited to his hearing. his name is alton mills. he's from the city of chicago. he made a terrible mistake as a
young man in chicago. he got involved in street level sales of drugs. he was arrested several times, and the first two times did not spend a day in jail but the third time on a three strikes and you're out sentencing at the age of 24 was given a life entence for the sale of drugs. fortunately in december of 2015, president obama commuted alton mills' sentence. at that time he had served 22 years in federal prison. under the obama administration, justice department prosecutors were directed that for low level offenders like alton they should use their discretion and not seek enhancements like the one that led to alton's life sentence. senator sessions unfortunately strongly opposed those guidelines. when it came to clemency, senator sessions has fiercely
criticized president obama's communtations. he said, and i quote, those communtations were issued in a, quote, unprecedented, reckless manner, and in his words senator sessions said, so-called low-level, nonviolent offenders simply do not exist in the federal system. what i said at the hearing and i'll say it today, senator sessions, meet alton mills and tell me that these low-level, nonviolent offenders don't exist in our federal system. when it came to changing the law that led to alton's sentence, senator sessions led the opposition. to sum it up, he's staunchly voted against using clemency and legislation to address the plight of thousands of people like alton mills still serving unjust sentences in federal prisons around the country. that doesn't leave any options for bringing about a just outcome. and it's one of the major concerns i have as he seeks this office of attorney
general. i the issue of civil rights, feel this with special intensity. i was fortunate to chair a subcommittee on the constitution civil rights and human rights committee on this judiciary committee. and watching the passage of state laws imposing voter i.d.'s and reducing the opportunities for early voting, i took this subcommittee on the road. we went to ohio and florida. we brought in election officials from both political parties, put them under oath and asked them point blank, what were the incidents of voter fraud in your states which led your state legislatures to change the law and make it more difficult for people to vote in your states? without exception they said there were none. how many people were prosecuted for voter fraud in ohio or florida before you started demanding voter i.d.'s?
virtually none. this effort to suppress votes continues across america. sponsored by some of the strongest special interest groups in our country. the decision that was made by the supreme court which changed the voting rights act was one which was applauded by senator sessions. it took away the authority which we had as a federal government to police these state laws and make sure that they didn't discriminate against people who are seeking the right to vote across our country. i listened to senator sessions say it was good for the south and that the law was changed by the supreme court. i have no particular animus against anyone in any part of the country. wherever there is an effort to suppress votes, wherever there is voter discrimination, we need to stand up and speak out.
whatever state may be involved -- north, south, east or west. i do not have confidence that senator sessions as attorney general will do that, and that, to me, is a troubling thing to say but one i'm sorry to say is a reality. i could go through so many other issues that have been noted here. his views on torture, his views and votes on women's health, his views on vawa. i agree with senator grassley to this extent. there isn't a one of us that hasn't been involved in a campaign where somebody took a vote and twisted it into something we never believed to be our true position but consistently time and time again, senator sessions has voted against protection for crime victims, lgbt victims, women who are victims, native americans and so many others. when senator leahy offered his basic resolution in this
committee on religion, we had a stark but simple choice. were we going to stand behind the constitution which has for more than two centuries spelled out in the simplest terms but the most important terms our position on religion? everyone on the committee but four voted with senator leahy in a bipartisan vote. one of those four is a man who now seeks to be the attorney general of the united states. we are now dealing with a ban on refugees and immigrants. we are dealing with a ban which even the president has acknowledged on christian broadcasting shows preference for one religion over another. that's is inconsistent with the values of this country, and i have no confidence that senator sessions will confront him with that grim reality. i'd like to call the attention of the committee to the testimony of michael mukasey who was brought as a witness for senator sessions and testified under oath about his experience as attorney general
of the united states. i did not vote for him because of his position on torture. but i respectfully tried, respectfully tried to ask him questions and i went to the question about the russian involvement in this last election campaign and asked him specifically about the f.b.i. investigation of this russian involvement in the campaign. michael mukasey, with a brevity of words, said the f.b.i. works for the attorney general. as attorney general, mr. mukasey, did you have the authority to stop an f.b.i. investigation? yes. so many of us wrote a set of questions to senator sessions afterwards. will you use your power as attorney general to impede an investigation of the russian involvement in this last presidential election or even stop such an investigation? do you know what his answer was? he said he did not have the time to read the unclassified
intelligence memo, which we have all read, that summarized this russian involvement. that is either willful blindness or willful ignorance on his part. not to realize the gravity of this. what happened in this presidential election on election day was a day that will live in cyber infamy. this was an attempt by a foreign power with values inconsistent with the united states to change the outcome of our elections specifically to benefit the current president and to defeat hillary clinton. is that worth an investigation? i came to the senate 20 years ago, as did senator sessions, and when i arrived in the senate as a member of the government affairs committee, we were welcomed into a hearing chaired by fred thompson of tennessee, ranking member john glenn, and the question before us 20 years ago was the involvement of the government of china in the clinton-gore
campaign. we spent months in public hearings on that question. because of some ham-handed decision by the clipon-gore campaign -- god forbid to accept campaign checks from buddhist nuns, there was nothing that pointed to the involvement of the chinese government but we went on for months and months later formal reports were issued and yet look at the response of the republican majority now to the suggestion that the russians were involved in this presidential campaign, a fact which every major intelligence agency of this country has confirmed. do you see the same kind of anger and commitment and excitement? not at all. they've dismissed it with boys will be boys shrug. the only hope we have to ever get to the truth of this is a thorough f.b.i. investigation, and now we are being asked to appoint an attorney general who
will not give us his word that he would not stop such an investigation or impede it. that to me disqualifies him when it comes to this important responsibility. and so i come to this conclusion despite my personal relationships, my working with senator sessions, my respect for his family, but he is the wrong person for this job. we need someone with unquestioned strength, values and integrity who at that critical constitutional moment is prepared to stand up to this president or any president and say, you are wrong, and if you insist on doing this, i will resign. i cannot picture this man who has been described by the trump and rs as a sevant legendary, having the will and
determination to do that. and for that reason i oppose the nomination of jeff sessions as attorney general of the united states. >> senator cornyn. senator cornyn: mr. chairman, i remember senator specter when he was chairman of this committee a few years ago. made the observation. thank goodness we don't try people in the courts of law based on the sort of flimsy and incompetent and hearsay evidence we use in order to make public policy arguments here in the senate. i guess you could call them alternative facts. our friends on the other side seem to be upset about the outcome of the election on november 8. i guess you could say they're going through the stages of grief, denial, anger. i think that's where they are right now. they haven't yet come to bargaining, depression or
acceptance. so they're angry. that's their right. but they don't have, i think, the freedom or the right to make up or to characterize motivation in the way they have. either of the nominee or the administration. you know, 37 democrats voted for the omnibus appropriation bill in 2016. the reason i bring that up is because it had a travel ban, a travel ban for people from iraq, syria and other countries that were related to or involved in international terrorism. so 37 democrats voted for a travel ban from some of the very same countries they are now decrying that is the subject of the executive order
signed by president trump. now, i'm glad general kelly, secretary kelly revised that to exdude legal permanent residents unless there's derogatory information that would justify that. i think that's the right thing to do. but the foe outrage of some of same people that voted for the travel ban is hard to take at face value. one of the reasons why the election turned out the way it did on november 8, in my view, s public backlash over a failure of the obama administration and particularly the holder and lynch justice departments to simply enforce the laws. whether they are immigration laws, where they preferred we kill terrorists rather than capture them and question them, claiming that's somehow to be a
morally superior position. we know attorney general holder, of course, was the first, i believe, in the history of attorney general ever to be held in contempt of congress for failing to comply with our oversight responsibilities. and now the idea that deputy attorney general yates somehow engaged in a watergate style act of political courage. what she did if they couldn't do her job was to quit, to resign, to read this letter where she acknowledges that the office of legal counsel reviewed the legality of the executive order and said it was lawful on its face and properly drafted, for her to then take the position that it was her prerogative to then say the united states would not defend the executive order in a court of law is completely unacceptable. so her choice was to either do
her job or to resign, and if she wouldn't do either one, i believe president trump was entirely within his rights to fire her. and it's really a shame. i voted for her confirmation. she's had a long and distinguished career, and i hope she's not remembered for this blemish on that long and distinguished career but for he good that she's done. so i said during the hearing of senator sessions that it's really surreal to sit here and listen to colleagues characterize someone who we know personally and we served with for many years. in the case of the democratic whip for 20 years. i've been here 15 years and served alongside senator sessions as many of us have for a long, long time. so this just isn't a question of what his record is.
we know his record. we know his resume. sat at his hearing, we know his heart. we know him to be a good and decent man. and the idea because he volted for or against -- voted for or against different policies as a legislator that he can't keep is oath and enforce the law is preposterous. i've had the great privilege of serving in three different departments of government. as a judge for 13 years, in the executive for four years as attorney general and now in the legislature. we all understand. i mean, since the founding of this country what the differences are between the branches of government and what the responsibilities are of people who hold those offices. i have every confidence that jeff sessions as the attorney general will enforce the law of
the land. and all political and policy differences that our colleagues have on the other side i think really is more a reflection of their disdain and their upset over the fact that president trump won the election and their preferred candidate did not. but the -- but it seems vastly different back in 2009 when president trump was sworn into office, president obama was not my choice for president but he was my president and he selected a cabinet and we confirmed seven of them on the first day of his office. but now the tables are turned. our democratic colleagues have is ed that resistance their chosen response. well, i hope they get beyond the anger that they're
currently feeling, and i hope they work their way to accepting the verdict of the american voter and the american people and, yes, hillary clinton won the popular election but that doesn't make a beans worth of difference. it's the electoral vote. of course they know that but they keep bringing that up as if that somehow delegitimized the victory of president trump and vice president pence. so i hope at some point our democratic colleagues will get past their anger and come to accept the verdict of the american people and work with us. this boycotting of markups like we saw in the finance committee where we had two cabinet nominees that couldn't be even voted on because our democratic colleagues boycotted the markup had denied president trump two more of his cabinet members. our democratic colleagues like to point with the -- to the
fact there have been some missteps at the early stages of this administration, but one of the reasons i suspect is because he doesn't have his team in place. and so they continue to criticize them even though they deny them the very team they need in order to do their job. so mr. chairman, i will enthusiastically support the nomination of jeff sessions as attorney general. i believe he will restore the rule of law to a justice department that's been ruled by e political arm of the previous administration for too long and i do believe that just as i believe that president trump is a response to people's decisions not to see a third term for president obama's policies in a clinton administration, that they see attorney general sessions as an antidote to the politicalization of the
department of justice under attorney general holder and lynch. senator leahy: senator blumenthal. senator blumenthal: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to express my appreciation and join my colleagues in thanking you for giving us the time that we need on this tremendously important topic. few d say that there are issues or votes that we will address more important than this one. most of us in practicing law and many of us in prosecuting how significant will serve t is who in this role because the attorney general of the united states is more than just another law enforcement officer, more than just another lawyer.
he must be the legal conscience for this nation and he must have the independence and integrity to stand up and speak out when his boss, the president of the united states, is in violation of the law. and that is the tradition of the department of justice. it is the tradition that sally yates upheld and demonstrated when she stood up and spoke out to the president of the united states. the analogy has been made to the saturday night massacre during the watergate scandal, but there also is a comparison to what james comey did when he was in the department of justice and he was faced with an executive order that he regarded as illegal and he similarly said that he could not and would not enforce it
. d he went to the white house was asked by then president george bush to come there, and as a result, president bush modified his stance. what is so tragically apparent here is that president trump is unwilling to consider the legal stood that sally yates her ground and why that position, now more than ever, demands someone who is willing to stand for the rule of law and for constitutional principles. it isn't only sally yates who thinks there are constitutional questions about these executive orders.
four courts all around the country, judges independent of each other and of any of us and organization have also held they are unenforceable. and the reason they are unenforceable is they violate our fundamental constitutional standards and principles, our values as americans. we're not here to debate the constitutionality or legality or wisdom of those orders, but the action that sally yates took is in the highest traditions of the department of justice and my fear and concern is that senator sessions will be unable or unwilling to stand up and speak out and serve as a those principles.
he has to be more than someone that follows the law, as he promised during his testimony he would do when faced with a difficult question, he told us he would follow the law. but the attorney general of the united states has to be an advocate, a zellous champion of constitutional rights and liberties that are threatened every day in this country, now more than ever. the president of the united states is traditionally accorded a high level of deference in selecting his cabinet because cabinet members are accountable to him but they are also more importantly accountable to the american people. that's our task here today to assure that accountability. no more -- no cabinet members as a greater impact on the daily lives of americans than
the attorney general of the united states. he has sweeping authority and any of us who served in the department of justice know that authority. any of us who served as prosecutors know that authority. -- power to charge someone with a crime, power to impose orders that restrict liberty, the power to protect the innocent from unfounded charges that may shatter their lives, even if they are cquitted is a power of awesome consequence. and as the chief federal prosecutor in connecticut, the united states attorney for several years, reporting to the attorney general of the united states and then as attorney general of connecticut, i fought alongside and sometimes against the attorney general of
the united states. robert jackson once said, and senator sessions in fact paraphrased it during his testimony, that the job of the united states attorney general is not to convict but ensure that justice is done. that's a sacred obligation, and he must be independent. that's an ideal not always realized in attorneys general but it is the goal that we all ought to strive to reach because his decisions must supersede politics. in most cases there is no recourse to overrule his decisions without political interference. he has that power as the nation's lawyer, not the president's counsel. the president has his own counsel in the white house. the attorney general of the united states, as senator leahy said so well, represents the
people of the united states. and this job requires a singular level of integrity and a nonpartisan but passionate devotion to the rule of law. we've seen over the past few days how destructive, anti-muslim, anti-immigrant orders can give rise to .iolations of the rule of law hatred and fear and indicated by these orders are ant theycal to our -- anti-theycal to our nation and our values. our nation is a nation of immigrants. all of us. all of our families have an immigrant story. the borders harm mainly children and families fleeing
violence and oppression and seek refuge in this country. we are stronger because we are a beacon of hope and refuge to such children and families. they have helped to shape and build our country. and this order will make us less safe. these orders provide a recruiting tool to isis by convincing young people who may be tempted to join their ranks. in fact, this country is engaged in a war against islam which is utterly and totally untrue. but it weakens us in a deeper moral sense. it is wrong. it is wrong for this great country devoted and founded on the ideals of welcoming people seeking that beacon of hope and protection of opportunity. the rule of law protects us from these kinds of harms, and the rule of law protecting us
from criminality within the united states and the threat of extremism is best served by encouraging people of other religions and faiths to come forward with information that ill in fact enable effective policing. we have seen over these last days impartial and steadfast judges in districts around the country upholding individual constitutional rights despite strong pressure from the president of the united states. and we've seen just last night what it truly means to serve at the department of justice and represent the american people and the constitution. demonstrates ra what happens when the rule of aw is compromised, and my fear
is that we are threatened with a return to that era. when the department of justice is no longer an independent authority acting on behalf of the american people but just another enabler of the president's ongoing efforts to substitute hateful demagoguery for legal and ethical responsibilities, and that's why the nomination before this committee is so important. now more than ever, the attorney general must be a person of independence and integrity and stand for the impartial rule of law. i have reviewed senator sessions' full record, his testimony, his response and his lack of responses to the follow-up questions that my colleagues and i sent to him, and i respectfully say that i cannot support his nomination.
at his confirmation hearing, senator sessions simply said that he would follow the law, that he would enforce the law, that he would respect the law, but he must be a leader, not just a follower. at the hearing and in their public comment afterwards, our republican colleagues have worked to make the case that senator sessions has no personal animosity toward minority groups, and i have no doubt that's the case. but senator sessions' personal feelings are not what's at issue here. in protecting constitutional rights and liberties and pursuing justice, he must be a champion. and senator sessions' record demonstrates a hostility and an tip thee, even strong react to
is righting rights, women's freedomare, religious s, safeguards, comprehensive immigration reform legislation. a measure that passed the united states senate with 68 votes, a bipartisan majority and he has opposed a criminal justice bill that attracted a group of 25 co-sponsors, republicans as well as democrats. he even split with the majority of his own party to vote against re-authorizing the violence against women act, demonstrating in the reasons ethy e articulated, antip to these rights and protections. he opposed hate crimes prohibitions. his views have been out of the mainstream and there is nothing
in his record, including in his testimony before this committee, that indicate he will be the constitutional ampion that all of us, republicans and democrats value in the attorney general. speaking truth to power is important when it comes to when it comes to conflicts of interests. president trump's vast business holdings and he has repeatedly refused to divest himself from them, present an unprecedented threat of conflicts of interest. should conflicts arise, the attorney general must be willing to maintain impartiality, including appointing a special counsel or independent prosecutor if necessary. we can all imagine scenarios when this step might be necessary and to commit broadly
to these principles is necessary from the next attorney general and yet when i asked senator sessions about enforcement of cases against illegal conflicts of interest involving the president and his family, such as violations of the stock stock act, he equivocated. when i asked him about appointing a special counsel to investigate criminal wrongdoing doucha bank, which -- deutsche bank, which is owed more than $100 million, he equivocated. when i asked him about russian hacking, he equivocated. senatorated nator durbin has rightly pointed out the failing that that equivocation represents. his answers to follow-up questions have been no better. these answers give me no
confident that he will be the independent nonpolitical enforcer against conflicts of interests and a fissile self-enrichment that nation needs. at a molt when this administration faces ethical and legal controversies that are unprecedented in scope and as as is the president's well. senator sessions' record over the many years fail to demonstrate his core convictions and commitments necessary in the next attorney general. he has failed to be that unshakeable, ethical voice that we need at this moment. and that is necessary to protect and defend our constitution. back in 1986, the judiciary committee rejected senator sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship due to remarks he made and actions he took in a position of public
interest as the united states attorney in alabama. my judgment about this nomination is not based primarily on his record before then. it is on his record since. on voting rights, senator sessions has often condoned barriers to americans exercising their franchise. he's been a leading opponent of provisions in the voting rights act designed to assure that african-americans can vote in places like his home state of alabama which has a unique history of racial segregation and he's advocated for needlessly restrictive and draconian voter i.d. laws citing utterly bedunk threats of voter fraud as a reason for curtailing the real and legitimate rights of entire groups of voters. he regarded a court decision in helby as good news in striking
down some of those key provisions. on privacy, senator sessions has passionately opposed this longstanding american right which is enshrined in five decades of supreme court cases. it protects women's health care involving reproductive rights. at a time when those rights face unprecedented assault, he's continued to condemn roe v. wade and the many court decisions upholding that case. equally disturbing, senator sessions has -- is supported by groups like operation rescue who defend the murder of doctors and the villification and criminalization of women. with him as attorney general, american women would understandably feel less secure in these rights. on religious freedom, senator
sessions has advocated using a religious test to determine which immigrants can enter this country. he was an advocate of a ban on uslims coming into the country during the past campaign. when this issue arose in committee, senator sessions was the only senator to argue forcefully for religious tests and against principles of religious liberty that have animated our republic since its founding. with senator sessions -- >> senator blumenthal, could you pull the microphone a little closer? >> yeah, it's hard to hear. thank you. [laughter] >> probably not. senator blumenthal: i'm happy to start over. senator grassley: bend it down like this. bend the end of it down.
senator blumenthal: i think i may be more persuasive when you couldn't hear me. on citizenship, senator sessions has called for abolishing a time-honored tradition that dates back to recon construction. birthright citizenship is the distinctly american concept that anyone born on our soil is a citizen of this country. we don't exclude people from citizenship based on nationality of their parents or grandparents. senator sessions disagrees. a position that most other republicans think is extreme. with senator sessions as attorney general, the trump administration would be encouraged in attempting to deport american citizens who have raised families and spent their entire lives here.
senator sessions declined my invitation at his nomination hearing to exercise moral and legal leadership and demonstrate his resolve to serve as this nation's legal conscience. he refused to reject the possibility of using information voluntarily provided by daca applicants to deport them and their families. as a matter of fundamental fairness and due process, as i said at the time, when a dreamer provides information to our government after being invited to come out of the shadows, this information should not be used to deport that person. attorney sessions as general, that sense of legal conscience would be lacking. on issues of discrimination and equal protection, senator sessions has publicly opposed marriage equality, claiming,
and i quote, that it weakens marriage, end quote. and even tried to eliminate protections for lgbt americans in the runaway and homeless youth trafficking prevention act. he has repeatedly voted against steps to enhance enforcement against hate crime, violent assaults involving bigotry or bias based on race, religion or sexual orientation. he even defended president trump's shocking admission on video of his pattern of engaging in sexual assault. senator sessions has said that public individuals may be fairly judged by assessing who supports them, but he's backed by groups with ties to white supremacists. he accepted an award and
repeated campaign donations from groups whose founder openly promotes the goal of maintaining a, quote, european-american majority, end quote, in our society. neither award nor many other important parts of senator sessions' history was reported on the questionnaire he prepared for the judiciary committee. and i gave senator sessions an opportunity in his hearing and in follow-up questions to repudiate these groups, hate groups and racist individuals who have endorsed his nomination and supported him in the past. instead, he doubled down, saying that a man who accused african-americans of excessive criminalality and american muslims of extensive ties to terrorism was, quote, a most prillyant individual, end quote. -- brilliant individual, end
quote. so i reach my decision to oppose this nomination with regret because senator sessions is a colleague and a friend to all of us. indeed, i have come to like him and respect him as i think has been observed by others of my colleagues through a number of shared experiences and common causes. he and i support law enforcement professionals. they serve our communities and nation with dedication and courage and they deserve and need our support. he and i believe that individual corporate criminal culpability should be pursued more vigorously, and i have talked to him privately as well as in the course of his testimony about the need for prosecuting corporate rongdoing because ultimately
jail and individual responsibility are the most effective deterrence against white-collar crime but this job, this decision, this esponsibility are different. here, my disagreements with senator sessions stem from bedrock constitutional principles, and while i could envision deferring to presidential authority and supporting him for other positions, my objection to his nomination relates specifically to this particular essential, all-important powerful job. at this historic moment, there's no doubt and can be no doubt about the responsibilities and immense power of the attorney general of the united states to be true to our values and our rule of law and to make sure that the president is never above the
law and never thinks he's above the law. reviewing his record, i cannot assure the people of connecticut or the country that jeff sessions would be a vigorous champion of these rights and liberties and therefore i stand in opposition to his nomination. thank you, mr. chairman. senator grassley: before senator leahy, we have a vote in 20 minutes, so i'd like to kind of plan for the rest of this committee meeting. number one, i would like to keep the meeting going during so republicans i hope will take turns with me to go vote and chair the meeting. and then so republicans have spoken shorter times than democrats so if senator lee speaks about the usual time of republicans and -- >> you can continue watching the judiciary committee hearing on the attorney general nomination live on c-span3 and also streaming live online.
as we get ready to go to the floor of the u.s. house about to gavel in, members working today on legislation to repeal an obama administration rule on dealing with waste from coal mining and considering 19 homeland security and cybersecurity bills. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] the speaker: the house will be in order. the prayer will be offered by our chaplain, father conroy. chaplain conroy: let us pray. god of the universe, thank you for giving us another day. it is your nature to hold us in your living presence always. it is our nature to think of you or of others only momentarily or in passing. be with us, each of us that we may be our very best and prove ourselves worthy of your love