The clouds of controversy swirling around Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who president-elect Donald Trump has chosen for his attorney general, are looming ever larger.
Yesterday, 1,226 law professors—including dozens from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and 173 other American law schools—sent a letter urging Congress to reject Sessions’ nomination, which is set to be confirmed next week. The academics represent every US state except for Alaska, which does not have any law schools. One of the organizers of the letter said 1,000 professors signed it within 72 hours.
Their collective objection has to do with the senator’s track record: Sessions is known for his objection to women’s and LGBT rights legislation, his hardline drug policies, his unflinching stance on illegal immigration, and his rejection for a federal judgeship in the 1980s over racist remarks. (The politician allegedly made light-hearted jokes about the Ku Klux Klan, disparaged black people, and called a white lawyer working for blacks a “disgrace to his race,” leading the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject his nomination by then-president Ronald Reagan.)
Says the professors’ letter:
Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge.
All of us believe it is unacceptable for someone with Senator Sessions’ record to lead the Department of Justice.
The Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer in the United States, with broad jurisdiction and prosecutorial discretion, which means that, if confirmed, Jeff Sessions would be responsible for the enforcement of the nation’s civil rights, voting, immigration, environmental, employment, national security, surveillance, antitrust, and housing laws.
The letter is addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must accept or reject Sessions’ nomination before it is sent for confirmation to the entire Senate.
On the same day the letter was sent, the NAACP staged an hours-long sit-in protest at Sessions’ office in Alabama; six demonstrators, including the civil rights organization’s president, have been arrested.