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tv   Senate Democrats Delay Attorney General Nomination Vote  CSPAN  January 31, 2017 9:33am-2:02pm EST

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>> good morning. today, we're going to vote on senator sessions' nomination to serve as attorney general. after we vote on senator sessions, we'll turn to legislation and other committee housekeeping business on the agenda. i'd like to mention a few things before we proceed, except for the ranking member, i'll ask everyone to try to limit their remarks to five minutes. that's how i handled lynch's nomination and by my count, every democrat on this committee except for two that i know about has already announced that they intend to oppose the nomination, so there's no mystery how this
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thing may go today as far as the final vote's concerned. with everyone's cooperation, we should be able to move forward in an orderly way. three weeks ago, senator sessions testified before this committee for more than ten hours. throughout that testimony, the american people had the opportunity to hear and learn directly from senator sessions that what all of us on this committee already knew to be true because we have served with him for so long. he knows the department better than any nominee for attorney general in recent memory. he's a man of integrity. he's a man of his word. and most importantly, he will enforce the law regardless of whether he would have supported passage of that law as a member
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of the senate. he explained that he enthusiastically prepared. he is prepared to set aside his role as a legislator and adopt a new role as our chief law enforcement officer. and he told us he'll execute that law with strength, with integrity, and with independence in order to provide for equal justice for all. that's precisely what we want in an attorney general, equal and fair application of the law. his answers to written questions made all this more clear. and i might add, there were just quite a few written questions given to him in addition to what was went on during those 10 hours. senator sessions answered roughly 700 written questions,
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including over 350 questions from members who announced that they would vote against his nomination even before they submitted a single written question. one consistent thread that ran through all of his answers is this: he will follow the law. regardless of whether he would have supported it as a matter of policy as a senator. the written testimony that we heard at his hearing tells the the same story. we heard from witnesses concerned that the attorney general must provide full and fair law enforcement. and then we heard from witnesses who have known senator sessions personally and worked for and with him for decades. those witnesses included former
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attorney general moukaze, forme attorney general thompson and lawyers who worked with senator sessions for a long period of time. all of those witnesses who actually know senator sessions said, in effect, the same thing. if you are concerned with securing the strong and equal enforcement of our laws, you should look no further than senator sessions to find an attorney general that's up to that task. senator sessions was asked a number of questions about policy positions he's taken as a legislator. that's good and well. but the test isn't whether or not you agree with policy positions senator sessions may have taken as a legislator. i'm going to refer to what ranking member feinstein said in
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her opening statement at the hearing on this question. the test is whether senator sessions as attorney general will uphold the laws he voted against as senator. on issue after issue then, senator sessions made clear that he will. it's important to recall what senator sessions in regard to this, quote. the office of attorney general of the united states is not a normal political office. and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws of the constitution of the united states, end of quote. and everyone on this committee, be they republican or democrat, knows senator sessions to be a man of integrity and a man of his word. because we know him to be a man of his word, we know that he
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will uphold and enforce all laws, equally, without regard to person just as he pledged. i'll take a second and address a few questions concerning executive orders issued by the president. some on the other side have raised concerns about senator sessions, whether he was involved in drafting or reviewing the executive orders. it's not clear the me why it would be a problem even if he had been involved. but the fact of the matter is he was not involved. in his written responses to senator leahy, senator sessions stated for the record, quote, neither i nor any of my current staff, end of quote, had a role in formulating or drafting the
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executive orders. ranking member feinstein also asked about the department's role more specifically, the office of legal counsel. of course, as we all know, senator sessions is not yet attorney general. he isn't yet running for department because now roughly 3 weeks and over 700 written questions after his hearing, this committee is still debating his nomination. to me, this underscores that we shouldn't needlessly delay this vote any longer. the department needs strong leadership and needs it in place as soon as possible. i'd also like to take a moment to address the criticism i've heard lodged against senator sessions that i believe is particularly unfair. as i said, it's fine to ask senator sessions policy questions about votes on legislation but to imply that
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because he had a principled objection to a provision in a particular bill, that he therefore didn't support the underlying purpose of that legislation and that sort of approach is unfair. senator sessions has been repeatedly criticized for voting against the democrat version of the 2013 violence against women act. of course, his critics routinely fail to mention that he voted for my version of that act which provided stronger provisions for grant accountability and tougher penalties for abuse. and of course, critics also conveniently failed to mention that senator sessions supported violence against women act reauthorization before when it was brought up in 2005. so to claim that he didn't support the underlying purpose
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of that legislation is just a rhetorical trick. it's an unfair one. maybe even mean spirited and i'll explain it this way. we all know that members of this committee both sides of the aisle disagree on bills of all sorts of reasons at different times. every democrat in this committee opposed my version of that legislation which included mandatory minimums to combat child pornography and assault. are we then to conclude that members who oppose my amendment aren't concerned about child r pornograp pornography? of course we should not make that accusation or what about debates over the years with legislation that included the death penalty? when members oppose legislation to combat terrorism, because that legislation includes the death penalty, would it be fair for us to claim that those members don't care about protecting the nation against
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terrorism? of course not. if we were to do that, that would be shameful. there are members of this committee who have principled on ye objections to mandatory like the death penalty. those are just that. policy disagreements. we can and should have those debates but we should have them in good faith and not impute a motive to another senator that we know they don't possess that motive. rather than focus on policy disputes that we've had over the years, i think it's more productive to consider some of the important questions ranking member feinstein asked at the beginning of our hearing. questions about whether he, senator sessions, as attorney general be an independent holder of that office.
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who will enforce the law in a fair and even handed way? those are the right questions to ask. first, senator sessions, will he enforce a law he voted against? here's his answer. it was passed by congress. it would be the duty of the attorney general, whether he voted for or supported to defend it. another important question. will he use the awesome power of the attorney general fairly? will he respect law in the constitution? senator sessions answered, quote, the office of attorney general of the united states is not a normal political office. and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws in the constitution of the united states, end of quote. and a final crucial question,
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will he be independent? will he tell the president no when necessary and faithfully enforce ethics laws and constitutional restrictions? quote, senator sessions answered precisely as an independent attorney general should, he said, the attorney general, quote, must be willing to tell the president and other top officials no if he and they overreach. he or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp, end of quote. senator sessions assured us he'll enforce laws fairly, faithfully and independently. and these combined with the life of public service and his experience working with each of us assures me that senator sessions will make an
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outstanding attorney general. i'm pleased to support his nomination and am pleased to cast my vote in favor of his confirmation. i urge my colleagues to do the same thing. before i go to senator feinstein, in regard to other items on the agenda, our staffs continue to work on an agreement on unpdates that the committee rules so we'll hold those rules over this week. the final item on the agenda, the elder abuse prevention and prosecution act, a bill that this committee reported unanimously of the last september, senator blumenthal and i last year collaborated closely on its development after i chaired a hearing before the committee in which we learned fraud and scams targeting seniors is widespread and growing. this bill tackles the financial exploitation of older americans which has been called the crime of the 21st century. it will be held over. senator feinstein.
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>> thank you very much, mr. chairman and thank you for your remarks. i listen very carefully to them and in essence, in a way, my remarks, i think, respond to yours. i have respect for you, as you know. i defer on some of the conclusions, but so be it. we have now had the opportunity to observe the first full week of the trump administration. in that time, we've seen a flurry of presidential declarations like none before. some broad, some seemingly unconstitutional, some unenforceable and all deeply concerning in their intent and legality. specifically, the president has issued six executive orders and ten presidential memoranda or directives in the first week of his administration for a total of 16 major administrative actions. among these, the president has issued a sweeping order to
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undermine the affordable care act. prohibited funding to any international aid group for simply providing information to patients about abortion, suggested a 20% tax on exports for mexico to pay for a border wall, and most egregiously, issued multiple executive orders on immigration. not one order, idea, or pronouncement was meant to bring this country together. they only serve to tear the country further apart. it's in this context with these events that we are being asked to consider this nomination. the president's nominee, a colleague of ours for some 20 years, is well known for his positions and point of view. he's been a staunch campaign partisan for the president. he has reinforced and supported the trump mission, style,
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rhetor rhetoric, and views. he was the first senator to endorse. he has attended at least 45 trump campaign events. he wore the hat. he was a leading voice and during the campaign he spoke at large rallies, smiling while crowds chanted lock her up. then in october of last year, at one of the presidential debates, and again at a rally in virginia, candidate trump repeatedly referenced him as my attorney general. it is very difficult to reconcile for me the independence and objectivity necessary for the position of attorney general with the partisanship this nominee has demonstrated. in fact, as you referred to, mr. chairman, just yesterday the washington post ran a story chronicling this nominee's involvement and connection to the president, his team, and
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their first acts. the post declared the directives bore trump's name, but another man's fingerprints, jeff sessions. the article continued, these are the quotes, during the transition, quote, sessions became a daily presence at trump tower in new york. mapping out the policy agenda, and making personnel decisions, end quote. quote, the author of many of trump's executive orders is senior policy adviser steven miller. a sessions confidante who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government's implementation of the refugee ban. the tactician turning trump's agenda into law is deputy chief of staff rick deerborn, sessions' long time chief of staff in the senate. the mastermind behind trump's
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incendiary brand of populism is steven k. bannon, who promoted sessions for years, as chairman of the breitbart website, end quote. the post went on to report that senator sessions, quote, lobbied for a shock and awe period of executive action that would rattle congress, impress trump's base, and catch his critics unaware according to two officials involved in the transition planning, end quote. and finally, in a lengthy e-mail for this story, steve bannon describes sessions as, and i quote, the fiercest, most dedicated and most loyal promoter in congress of trump's agenda, end quote. and said that sessions, quote, has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and
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philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda, end quote. now, this is true, how could we possibly conclude that this nominee will be independent? i, myself, asked him that question and just got back the response. and it was denied. but there are names cited, the post article to read, it seems to me it is either true or false. the executive order issued last friday is a case in point. the executive order temporarily bans the entry of persons from seven muslim majority countries. it halts all refugee admissions. i believe this broad order goes against our core values, it disregards our obligations under international agreements, undermines critical protections in our constitution, and it
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effectively bans one religion, the muslim phase. already this weekend we saw confusion and protests at airports across the country. press reports have stated that between 100 and 200 people were detained at american airports and more than 300 were not allowed to board planes to the united states from foreign airports, including my home state of california. in addition, the order effectively bars entry of people ranging from iraqi translators who helped american soldiers for years in iraq to syrian refugees fleeing horrible violence. it is also interpreted to apply to people with approved visas and dual nationals. the question is, if confirmed what will this nominee do?
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will he support and defend these broad and destructive executive orders? will he carry out and enforce the president's actions that may very well violate the constitution? if pass epast is prologue to th future, it is not difficult to assess that he will. just one short year and two months ago, on december 7th, 2015, then candidate donald trump issued a press release, calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the united states, end quote. three days later, on december 10th, 2015, senator leahy, the man sitting to my left, authored a resolution in the judiciary committee, and here is what it stated. quote, it is the sense of the senate that the united states must not bar individuals from entering into the united states
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based on their religion. as such action would be contrary to the fundamental principles on which this nation was founded, end quote. the vote was 16-4 in favor of the leahy resolution. the chairman and majority of republicans, gentlemen, voted for it. but the nominee voted no. in fact, he spoke for nearly 30 minutes against it. he had to know that this type of ban would raise serious constitutional questions. he had to know that it was effectively unenforceable. but he supported it anyway. this no vote speaks volumes. but it was certainly not the last word. according to the washington post, and again i quote, from immigration and health care, to national security and trade,
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sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president's policies. sessions' reach extends throughout the white house, with his aides and allies accelerating the president's most dramatic moves. including the ban on refugees, and citizens from seven mostly muslim nations that has triggered fear around the globe, end quote. now, if it were just this one article by the post, just one campaign event, just one vote, maybe there would be an open question. but there are many disturbing actions. and statements throughout his record. let me name some of them. i'm also concerned about the president's repeated calls for an investigation into voter fraud, simply because he lost the popular vote by 3 million. and, again, last week, the white
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house press secretary reiterated the president's belief that there was widespread voter fraud in this past election. and that millions of illegal votes were cast with no evidence whatsoever. what will this attorney general nominee do? will he use the awesome power of the department of justice and spend taxpayer dollars to launch partisan investigations into voter fraud? or will he use his position to defend the voting rights of millions of americans? when asked about voter fraud by senator franken, senator sessions responded that he believes and i quote, we regularly have fraudulent activities occur during election cycles, end quote. in reality, claims of widespread
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voter fraud have been repeatedly debunked, and even isolated cases have found be extremely rare. this past december, excuse me, the washington post reviewed the 2016 election and out of over 135 million people voting, they found four documented cases of voter fraud. if confirmed, what will senator sessions do when faced with questions on reproductive rights? this is an issue of real importance to a dominant majority of women in this country. at this hearing, i ask directly if it is still his view that roe v. wade is, quote, one of the worst colossally erroneous supreme court decisions of all time, end quote.
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he said, quote, it is, end quote. he said he will, quote, respect, end quote, roe v. wade, but believes the decision, quote, violated the constitution, end quote. as attorney general, who says he believes a woman's well established fundamental rights are unconstitutional is essentially inviting states to pass more restrictions to women's access to health care, knowing full well the justice department may in fact support those in court. in fact, i asked whether the justice department under his leadership would seek to overturn roe or change precedent on reproductive rights. he left the door open by saying, and i quote, such decisions
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would depend upon the unique circumstances of the case or cases as they arise. i will not prejudge the issues, end quote. and when asked by senator blumenthal whether he believes a woman should be punished for having an abortion, as the president said during the campaign, senator sessions could have given a simple no answer. but he did not. he refused to rule out punishment for women. instead, he merely noted that while the supreme court had upheld the right to an abortion, that right had been limited by various state and federal statutes. quote, many of which have been upheld as constitutional -- excuse me -- yeah, constitutional, end quote, and noted that his role as attorney
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general would be to faithfully enforce all laws. he clearly left open the possibility that he would enforce laws that punish women. the final issue i would like to touch on, mr. chairman, is civil liberties. ever since 9/11, we had an intense struggle between civil liberties and national security. i think people know i believe in strong national security. but also believe we must never sacrifice our values or fundamental constitutional rights as americans. it is clear from the record the nominee believes otherwise. senator sessions was one of only nine senators in 2005 to vote against the detainee treatment act which contains senator mccain's and my bipartisan amendment that prohibited cruel,
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inhumane and degrading punishment for individuals in american custody. in 2008, on the senate floor, he praised a prior attorney general for refusing to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future. and claimed that enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to stop additional terrorist plots. specifically he stated, and i quote, i'm glad attorney general mukasey is able to say waterboarding was utilized only three times and that it had not been used in five years. but i am glad he also said he would not say it would never be done again, end quote. that's not true. in fact, one detainee alone was subjected to waterboarding 183 times. and as a senate intelligence
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committee's extensive study on the cia's interrogation program revealed, the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, particularly waterboarding, were and are ineffective and did not produce actionable intelligence. and in the summer of 2016, the nominee was one of 21 senators to vote against prohibiting waterboarding and other techniques not found in the army field manual. he has even expressed support for the detention of americans captured on american soil to be held without charge or trial. these positions give me no confidence the nominee will uphold our laws and civil liberties as attorney general. mr. chairman, today we are being asked to vote on the one person
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who will lead the department of justice, and its 113,000 employees charged with defending the interests of the united states according to our nation's laws. and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all americans. we're being asked to vote on a nominee that will have to stand up to a president who is clearly willing to ignore the law and even issue orders in violation of the constitution. we are are being asked to determine whether this nominee's record demonstrates that he will have the objectivity to enforce the law for all americans, and be an independent attorney general and not an arm of the white house. yesterday, early in the evening, we clearly saw what a truly independent attorney general
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does. sally yates, the acting attorney general, who enjoyed broad bipartisan support, when she was confirmed as deputy attorney general, declared that under her leadership the department could not defend trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees. here's what she wrote. and it is important. and i quote, my responsibility is to ensure that the position of the department of justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all of the facts. in addition, i am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. at present, i am not convinced that the events of the executive order is consistent with these
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responsibilities, nor am i convinced that the executive order is lawful, end quote. consequently, for as long as i am the attorney general, the department of justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order unless and until i become convinced that it is appropriate to do so. members, that statement took guts. that statement said what an independent attorney general should do. that statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no. it took the courage of elliott richardson and william rukleshouse who stood up to president nixon. that is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do. i have no confidence that senator sessions will do that. instead, he has been the
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fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in congress of the trump agenda and has played a critical role in the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. with this in mind, i must vote no. thank you. >> senator hatch. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman. i enthusiastically support the nomination of our colleague and long time member of this committee, senator jeff sessions, to be the next attorney general of the united states. his qualifications for this position are unmatched in american history. none of the previous 83 u.s. attorneys general had his experience in both developing and implementing criminal justice policy. as i reviewed the widespread support for his nomination, i was struck by the strong relationship between support for him and knowledge about him. the longer and better people knew jeff sessions the more they support his nomination.
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mr. chairman, one of the letters we received was from judge lewis freeh, well known to all of us as the director of the fbi under president bill clinton. he writes, quote, i have served and interacted with senator sessions for over 25 years, and have always been greatly impressed with his commitment to the role of law, his fair and balanced prosecutorial judgment and personal dedication to protecting civil rights. i believe that jeff will be an outstanding attorney general for the nation, unquote. another example comes from our former colleague, the late senator arlen specter. he served for many years on this committee including as chairman. he was one of my friends. more than 20 years after he voted against jeff's 1986 nomination to the u.s. district court, senator specter said this was the one vote out of more than 10,000 that he regretted.
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what changed his mind? it is simple. he served with jeff sessions, he got to know jeff sessions, and he saw the real jeff sessions in action. the confirmation process for this nomination has been very revealing. senator sessions' critics appear to believe that an attorney general at least a republican attorney general cannot fairly enforce the law that he personally opposes or may have voted against. i reject that notion and am confident they would think differently if a senator from their side of the aisle were one day nominated to this position. if anything, basing decisions on political rather than legal factors was becoming the hallmark of previous administrations justice department. they -- to defend in court laws that congress enacted not because there were no reasonable arguments to defend the laws, but because the administration politically posed them. and imagine if senator sessions
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said he planned to be the arbiter of whether statutes or executive branch actions are right or just. imagine if he had said that the justice department would defend only those that he deemed to be wise. i can hear the house of protest, the condemnation, the calls for opposition. thankfully he has not so arrogant as that. senator sessions critics are at least some of the most vocal. also seem to care nothing for the actual facts of senator sessions' record. they refuse to tell the truth even about something as simple as the support for the violence against women act. he supported its reauthorization in 2000, he supported it in 2005 and again in 2013. mr. chairman, senator sessions is honorable. he's fair. he's a man of the highest integrity. and i think we all know that. he is committed to the rule of law, loves the justice department, and has the experience to lead it in the right direction.
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all i can say is that i -- the fact that we might differ on some interpretations of the law doesn't mean a person isn't good or can't do this job in the justice department. fact of the matter is, i don't know of many people that have the qualifications that jeff sessions has and there have been no -- no attorneys general that had the amount of experience before him becoming attorney general that he will have had. all i can say is he's a man of integrity, decent, honorable man and i hope we can pass him through this committee. >> senator leahy. >> excuse me. thank you, mr. chairman. you know, it is almost as though we're discussing two different people here. but maybe that's a -- because it is a strange year.
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certainly the strangest i've seen in the years i've been here in the senate. and what we saw last night illustrates what is at state with this nomination. i've said and i believe that the president's decision to fire acting attorney general sally yates is shameful. the accusation she betrayed department of justice is dangerous. the attorney general is a people's attorney, not the president's attorney. he or she does not wear two hats as one attorney general tried to claim years ago. it is not the department of justice -- or it is not the -- it is not the secretary of justice. it is the department of justice.
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it is not the president's attorney, it is the attorney general of the united states. one is there for everybody. everybody in the united states. i want to thank her for nearly three decades of service to this country, as the u.s. attorney, when she is strongly prosecuted some of the most serious crimes in this country, did so irrespective of the political leanings of the people she's prosecuting. and she served in the finest tradition of the justice department. she sets a high standard for the department, for the nation. i called her this morning and told her that. i also remember the question she was asked by senator sessions,
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under oath. and she was asked would you be willing to stand up to a president? would you be willing to tell a president when he's wrong? those of us around this table remember that. and under oath, she said she would. she kept her word. she upheld her oath. she did what she was supposed to do. senator feinstein mentioned elliott richardson, bill rukleshouse, they did the same. i knew them both as people of integrity. i know sally yates as a person of integrity. despite the president's strong interest in implementing a muslim ban, as he promised to do in his campaign, miss yates
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concluded his immigration executive order was not legally defensible. this was not a surprising conclusion. the executive order discriminates by design. it's wrong. i believe it is illegal. several federal courts have already found that president trump's order is very likely unconstitutional. miss yates willingness to defend the rule of law instead of defending president trump's political whims demonstrates exactly why having an independent attorney general is so important and why we have to be so careful in selecting our next attorney general. understand what is happening here. i've been here with numerous
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administrations. republican and democratic. one of my first role call votes was for a republican attorney general, william french smith. then declared i would vote for attorney general barr and we had a voice vote. but these are people i thought would defend the independence of the justice department. as a young law student, i and two or three others picked by the attorney general from different law schools were interviewed by the then attorney general. we asked them similar questions about how independent the
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attorney general could be. could they be independent if it is in the interest of justice, independent of the president of the united states. and as young law student, i'll never forget the response. he said we would have to do -- we have to do it. somebody commits a crime, breaks the law, we have to take action. the attorney general did that in a celebrated case where he prosecuted someone from illinois who had been vital in the election of the president who appointed him. the president who appointed him was his brother. this was attorney general robert kennedy. he prosecuted.
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the -- he showed the independents of the department of justice. president trump has placed independence of the justice department at stake. he's put the department on notice, if you adhere to your oath of office, to defend the constitution, then you risk your job. that no president should say of the department of justice. at this critical time we need an attorney general that can stand up to the president, someone with fidelity to the rule of law, not a political ideology. someone who will support the thousands of career prosecutors in the department, people who are republicans, democrats, or have no political affiliation. career prosecutors. they serve our nation. they defend the constitution without fear or favor. now, there is something looming
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over this nomination that i suspect is on the minds of both republicans and democrats. the fact is we're debating who should be an attorney general and a trump administration. this is an administration that needed only one week, only one week to find itself on the losilose ing side of an argument in federal court. i've been here with president ford, president carter, president reagan, president clinton, president bush, both president bushes, president oba obama. never, ever seen anything like that. in fact, the administration's
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unpredictability, extreme agenda casts a shadow over all the president's nominees and that includes senator sessions. now, i was a junior member in this committee 31 years ago when jeff sessions was nominated to a federal judgeship. this committee, republicans in the majority, was chaired by republican strom thurmond. but the committee on a bipartisan basis rejected his nomination. we're not confident that he would be a fair judge. i'm not basing my decisions on that case. that was then. we were talking about something different. today we're considering senator sessions for a different role. he's nominated to be the chief law enforcement officer of united states, not the chief law enforcement officer of the president, but the chief law
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enforcement officer of the united states, that includes every one of us. attorney general has to be independent, he must faithfully serve all americans. and i carefully view -- in fact, i find it hard to remember when i reviewed a nominee's record so thoroughly as i have this. reviewed his extensive record, i reviewed his responses to serious questions asked by this committee, i'm not convinced he meets the threshold standard. and so i have to oppose this nomination. nothing to do with friendship with senator sessions, somebody i've known. but has to do with whether he would be the kind of independent person we need as the attorney
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general for all the country. i have very serious doubts that senator sessions would be an independent attorney general. let me give you a few reasons why. there have been months of media coverage about president trump's many krikz of interest, and the constitutional concerns they present. months that has been in the press. but senator sessions has repeatedly evaded my questions on this topic by claiming he hasn't studied the issue. he even refused to acknowledge his conflict of interest as president to have a personal financial stake in policies pursued by his administration. that's very definition of conflict of interest. that's conflict of interest 101. president should not personally profit from their decisions.
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this is willful blindness on the part of senator sessions. and extends even to russian interference in our democracy. i asked him a series of questions. we talked about the intelligence community's report, quote, on russian activities and intentions in recent u.s. elections. most of that report has been made public. there are in parts that haven't been made public, they have been available to every senator. those who served the distinction on the intelligence committee like senator feinstein know. multiple times he answered my questions by stating i have not reviewed the report, but i have no reason not to accept the intelligence community's conclusions as contained in the report. so i asked him whether the
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activities described in the report are illegal and a threat to our democratic system. that's not a difficult question. the answer should be an obvious yes. senator sessions is not willing even to acknowledge facts and make president trump uncomfortable, how can we believe the attorney general trump would ever be able to say no to president trump as attorneys general of both parties have been able to do in the past. senator sessions' record on civil rights, his lack of independence from president trump leave me particularly worried he'll fail to protect america's -- americans' constitutional right to vote. nothing is more sacred in our democracy than the right to vote.
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i know that's the way vermonters feel. but senator sessions declared a good day for the south, when the shelby county decision was handed down, effectively gutting the voting rights a s act, an a that passed by overwhelming majority, republicans and democrats in the house and the senate, i remember standing proudly with president george w. bush on the lawn of the white house when he signed the bill. and all of us, republicans and democrats, saying this was good for the country. for all the country. all the country. senator sessions declared it was a good day for the south when the shelby county decision came down. senator sessions has consistently sought to undermine the achievements of the voting
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rights act as he did in the perry county case as u.s. attorney. the fact that senator sessions voted to reauthorize the act once in 2006 and almost everybody did, provides little comfort when he turned around and argued it was unconstitutional, right after a unanimous senate vote. senators know sometimes it would be hard to get unanimous senate vote to say the sunrises in the east, but here we had a unanimous senate vote. many republicans like speaker ryan, senator graham, have rightly condemned president trump's wild conspiracy theory that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote last november. the white house quoted somebody who plays golf in florida that he heard people ahead of him and behind him in the line saying
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how they were going to vote illegally, turns out this person was not qualified to vote, never went in a voting line, and never said it, but, boy, was treated as gospel. millions of illegal votes, the state officials would have to count the votes, republicans and democrats, have debunked this. but i fear the state of falsehood would be used as justification to further attack the hard won right to vote for racial minorities for students and poor and elderly citizens -- the voting booths change or things put outside places they could easily reach. but more importantly senator
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sessions has again refused to acknowledge a fundamental and plainly physical fact, the president is flat out wrong. instead, senator sessions said many a written response last night he doesn't know what data the president might have relied upon. of course he doesn't know what data, there is no such data. and ought to just admit that. just because you make up a fantasy does not mean it is real. the next thing we're going to hear is a unicorn has voted. senator sessions' close ties to president trump and the important rule he already played in the campaign and the administration raise important questions about his impartiality in matters involving the president. i asked him several times, he's
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under oath, about scenarios in which he would recuse himself, given clear conflicts of interest. but he brushed these questions off suggesting he was merely as supportive of the president during the campaign. senator sessions is selling himself short. he was widely reported to be a central figure in the trump campaign. just yesterday, steve bannon called the administration's clearinghouse for policy and philosophy. and in a relationship appears to fly in the face of the justice department's recusal standards. the department's standards which codify mandate recusal when the attorney general has a close identification with elected officials rising from service as the principle adviser, principle official there of.
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so in fairness to senator sessions, i asked him whether that language would apply to his relationship to president trump. but he refused to say one way or the other. now we find the independence of the justice department under siege. and i find his lack of responses to the question to be unacceptable. i also have concerns about his willingness to protect the most vulnerable of our country. in this committee, senator ted kennedy called jeff sessions a throwback because of his conduct on civil rights issues. i said i would look at where he had been since that vote. well, since the committee's bipartisan rejection of his first nomination, the record
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shows his reason to be concerned. time and again, when the rights of women of lgbtq individuals, disenfranchised communities have been debated here in the senate, senator sessions is not sought to protect the civil human rights too often he has been the one, sometimes the only one standing in the way. in 2009, senator sessions opposed extending hate crime protections to women and lgbt individuals. groups targeted based on merely who they are. he stated, quote, i am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. i just don't see it.
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well, open your eyes and you will see it. i talked to the police anywhere in this country, go anywhere in this country, you will see it. you'll see it. fortunately, bipartisan majority and matthew shepard and james byrd hate crimes prevention act is now law. and these protections are needed more than ever. in fact, if you look at fbi statistics, lgbt individuals are more likely to be targeted for a hate crime than any other minority group in this country. senator sessions also oppose the bipartisan 2013 leahy/crapo violence against women reauthorization legislation. that overwhelmingly passed the senate with a support from a
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majority of republican senators. during the hearing and in written questions senator sessions refused to commit to defend this important law's constitutionality. he said he would carefully study it to determine whether it is reasonably defensible. it is the law. it is the law of the land. no court has struck it down. in fact, since enacted, nobody has challenged it in any court in the country. but he'll study it to see whether it should be defended. his refusal to voice support -- is more troubling and the report at the heritage foundation bl h budget blueprint, being relied upon by the new administration,
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calls for eliminating all violence against women act grants. i asked senator sessions to commit to stand up for women, preserve the critical programs and again he refused -- appeared before the committee, bravely shared the story of being raped as a child, explained why this issue is so important. we need an attorney general who will continue the progress we made since the initial passage of -- some are committed to improve and enforcing our laws, to ensure the most vulnerable victims of crime can come forward to seek accountability, and to access healing. this law and these grants are a matter of life and death to many people across this country. i still have nightmares about some of the crime scenes i went
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to, usually 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. battered woman dead, as we sought who did it. we didn't have the things -- we didn't have the programs where she would have a place to go, seek protection. she had had those programs, many of these victims i saw as i ordered autopsies would be alive. those are realities. those are realities. how can anybody, how can anybody who is going to be in a position to enforce our laws turn their back on that? or suggest the law should apply to only certain classes of women.
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those crime scenes, i never heard the police officer say we can only investigate this if we determine the dead victim is straight and not gay, only if we determine that the dead person is a citizen, not an immigrant. we only -- we have to determine whether they're a native american or not. otherwise we can't seek the person who did it. no, they went to get the person who did it. we need an attorney general who understands this. another issue that concerns me is criminal justice reform. for years i worked with a bipartisan group of senators on this committee to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. the sentences have created perverse disparities within our
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justice system. racial minorities receive nearly 80% of them. bipartisan efforts have the strong support of the justice department and many in law enforcement. is not senator sessions, he fought hard against modest sentencing reform. if you're a wealthy white person work i working on wall street, on friday, your supplier comes with $200 worth of -- $300 worth of powder cocaine, if you're found you at most get a slap on the wrist. maybe how could such a wonderful person do something like this? maybe they should serve three weekends serving food at a soup
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kitchen. if you're a black person in the inner city, you buy an equal amount of crack cocaine, you're going to go to prison. you think you're ever going to get a job when you get out? the role as the campaign adviser to president trump gives me additional cause for concern. the washington post and senator feinstein refers to this, writing an article calling senator sessions the intellectual godfather of the president's hard-line policies and executive orders. the article said, the director's bore trump's name, but another man's fingerprints were also on nearly all of them, jeff sessions, closed quote. steve bannon, who is -- worst strains of fearmongering and race -- told reporters that senator sessions is the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy for the trump administration.
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senator sessions denied he was involved in creating the illegal muslim ban executive order. i'll take him at his word. but his views on this issue should come as no surprise to the committee. senator feinstein noted this in 2015, i offered a simple resolution, expressed the sense of the senate, the united states must not bar individuals from entering into the united states based on their religion. that's pretty simple. all democrats and most republicans supported my resolution. senator sessions opposed it. i find that concerning. we need an attorney general who would stand in the way of religious discrimination, not one that endorses it. and believe me, the anti-muslim statements that are coming out of this administration create
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huge dangers to some of the best people in our country. now, it is still unraveling what happened in quebec city. i know quebec city very well. my mother-in-law was born in quebec city. we can drive there in a matter of just a few hours from our home in vermont. and my wife and i go there often. a beautiful city. very safe city. i go there, i practice my french, sometimes understood, but it is a wonderful city. a peaceful city. watch home from restaurants,ed amia at midnight, feeling totally safe. now you have quebecer who had
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anti-muslim tendencies, claims to be a trump supporter, and committed a horrendous crime. even more horrendous because this is not a country where you see such things. let's back off from this. let's back off from this. my father told me stories when he was in his early teens and my grandfather patrick j. leahy died as a stone carver in bury, vermont, my father would go to seek work in the -- no catholic may apply, no irish may apply. we have gone beyond that. we have gone that. you wouldn't see such signs. but are there hidden signs that no muslim need apply?
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that's not who we are. and that's not who we should be. let me conclude this, we need an independent attorney general, one who is committed to standing up for the constitutional and statutory rights of the disenfranchised, and stand up to a president who in the short days already violated the rights. i don't think that describes senator sessions. so for these reasons, i'll speak longer on the floor, i'm not confident that senator sessions will be an attorney general for all americans, and so, mr. chairman, i oppose this nomination. thank you for -- >> no jeff sessions, no to racism, no to the ban on refugees -- i will go out. you don't need to drag me. i got a hip replacement.
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i'm 70 years old and i can make it out on my own. but no to racism, no to hate, no to jeff sessions, no to the ban on refugees. no to jeff session. >> those of you on my side of the aisle that have asked me to intervene when speeches get too long, i'm not going to do that. first of all, senator leahy deserves, i think, special consideration because he's a long time member of the committee, former chairman. and secondly, i've been in this committee for a long period of time, and usually if you start raising issues particularly on an important issue like this, for the attorney general of the united states, you end up spending more time arguing about it than letting somebody speak. i hope you'll be tolerant of my not rapping the gavel every time somebody goes longer than you think they should.
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>> mr. chairman, i just want to thank you for what you said about me. i would note, however, that when i was chair, i always let both republicans and democrats speak. and usually senator sessions was the one who spoke the longest of any of us as our colleagues on both sides of the aisle know and i never once asked him to stop. >> let me in good conscience and i should have said what you said because you have been tolerant in all of the years i've been on this committee, even with chuck grassl grassley. >> i support your decision, it is an important vote we're about to make and take all the time you need to explain yourself. that's the way i look at these things. so with that in mind, i'll be quick. bottom line is i often disagree with president trump, more than i thought i would in the first ten days. even though we generally see the big issues pretty much the same.
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but in this occasion i find myself enthusiastically supporting his pick. and let me tell you why. i think jeff sessions is qualified. he has dedicated his life to the law before he got into the senate. he's held responsible positions in the law. and i find him to be qualified. i think he's a good man. actually like him. i disagree with him some. but i found him to be a good man who will fight to the death for what he believes. but if you can enlist him as an ally, he'll be there for you, no matter the political consequences. what i've tried to do with my vote is to understand elections matter. i voted for holder and lynch because i thought they were qualified. a lot of colleagues on this side had a problem with loretta lynch because she believed that the executive order, the president obama issued about giving legal status to millions of illegal
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immigrants was okay. the courts wound up disagreeing with the president and attorney general lynch and the reason i didn't vote against her because to me it was pretty clearly obvious that he overreached is i didn't expect her to come here and undercut her boss until the courts ruled. so about jeff's relationship to president trump, who do you expect him to pick? i mean, senator leahy was okay with jfk picking his brother. he can't do that anymore. but who do you really expect the president to pick when it comes to something like this? i think -- >> senator leahy, i love your record, my father served on the department of justice for a long time! i love this country! and i don't support -- >> okay. so what was i saying? i was saying that jeff sessions
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is not the first person to be close to a president who advised a president who wound up being in the president's cabinet. now, is this going to be a test for us all going forward? the fact he's close to the president doesn't disqualify him at all. it makes perfect sense that somebody is going to be president of the united states would pick somebody they know they trust, and share the world view. the law on terror. one of the main reasons i support jeff is that i am tired of turning the war into a crime. sulaiman abu ghaith was the son-in-law that was captured, i think in pakistan, i can't remember, a couple of years ago, the son-in-law of bin laden. he was put on a navy ship for a couple of weeks, sent to new york and read his miranda rights within two or three weeks of capture, not held as an enemy combatant, given a life sentence
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and here's what i would suggest, that jeff sessions will stop that practice. if we catch enemy combatants in the future, high level al qaeda operatives, we're not going to read them the miranda rights, we'll hold them under the rule of war, interrogate them consistent with the law of the land and the geneva convention and try to gather intelligence to try to prevent the next attack. to my friends on the other side, the world is on fire. somebody needs to come along and change our legal system so we can better defend ourselves. only god knows how much intelligence we have lost in the last four years for an insane policy that treats an al qaeda terrorist as somebody who stole your car. as to dianne feinstein, i admire greatly, but we had this running debate about what an american citizen can and can't do. you can't join al qaeda and collaborate with them without consequences. hamdi versus rumsfeld, held an
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an enemy combatant, justice o'connor said we can hold even one of our own as an enemy combatant if in fact they have been collaborating with the enemy. if you get to america, you don't get america, you don't get rewarded hopefully to god our laws work here. so i think jeff sessions is right and senator feinstein is wrong. bottom line. about the job of attorney general. i think jeff will follow the law. no matter what his political opinions are. i have no doubt about that. as to roe v. wade, millions of americans share that opinion. you mepgsed a march where thousands came to protest president trump. you were right. they were peaceful. most of them around my peace. very nice folks. you apparently missed the
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hundreds of thousands that took streets a few days ago and had a sincerely held opinion that roe v. wade is bad law. can you disagree? absolutely, and still be attorney general. at least i hope so. because millions of americans do. but it is law of the land and a process to change it and that will come from the courts. jeff sessions, the man, this is the one that gets me the most i guess. i expect criticism to come our way on both sides of the aisle. i voted against senator leahy's proposal, violence against women, even though i'm suppo supportive of the concept of protecting women because i didn't agree with his construct. so i guess maybe i can't be attorney general either. jeff the man. john lewis. john lewis. if anybody deseves to be called a modern hero, it is john lewis. he literally risked his life to stand up against oppression at a
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time when a lot of people were not. that's something that he should be proud of and we should all revere. but he came before the committee and he made a pretty indamming environment of senator sessions. here's what i've asked my colleagues to do. look underneath these criticisms and see what you find. this is the same man who basically accused sahr palin and j john mccain of having republican rallies that reminded him of george wallace's time. senator mccain and governor palin are sewing the seed of hatred division and there is no need for this hostility. he said george wallace never threw a bomb, fired a gun, but the conditions that encouraged vicious attack against innocent americans simply trying to exercise their constitutional right because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on a sunday morning when
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a church was bombed in birmingham, alabama. most of you know i'm very close to senator mccain. he had a chapter in one of his books about john lewis and when asked about three people u you would seek their counsel and advice when he was running for president, john lewis was one of them. i don't think i've ever been more disappointed than when john lewis said those things about my friend, john mccain. it hurt him to ohhis core, so i recognize congressman lewis service to our country and his heroism, but there has been a pattern here. starting with senator mccain where i think is criticism is off base. the naacp. jeff sessions says wup of the greatest of the country, i think he's earned that title without any question. when you look today in 2016,
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every p republican on this side of aisle gets a 25% at best on their scorecard. now, you can blame them or us, but when you look under the criticism, it's more to do about republican conservatives not being able to agree with the naacp than it has about jeff session, the man. so, what i want to let the committee know is that i voted for almost everyone that president obama appointed, disagreeing with them on almost everything. i never doubted any of these people were bad people because they disagreed with me. the one thing i can tell the united states of america in my view that jeff session ss a republican conservative who is a good, decent man who will follow the la as he sees it, will try to take the country down a different road than president obama and his attorney general and that's what the whole election was about. you can't have it both ways.
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can't lose the election, expect the government to represent your view of what we should be be doing. the question is, is he qualified? is is he a decent, honorable man? and he's every bit as qualified and honorable as eric holder and loretta lynch. >> thank you for the seven minutes you took. go ahead, senator durbin. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. let me say at the outset, this exercise, this responsibility in the senate judiciary committee is one which i perhaps didn't anticipate when i was running for the senate. so often we are called upon, to stand the judgment of people seeking positions as judge, u.s. attorney, marshalls, even cabinet members and it really puts to a test each one of us in terms of trying to be fair and
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be honest. if we entrust that person with a responsible thety. it is complicated even more when it involves a colleague, someone you have served with. in my case, for 20 years, with with senator sessions. b i believe that i can take the measure of that man as he can take it of me because we've heard one another's speeches to the point that we can give one another's speeches. i certainly understand his philosophy. and understand his values. political values. and that is making this even more challenging. i would like to make one comment about senator graham's statement about john lewis. senator graham, i may not agree with everything that john lewis has said. if there was any conclusion about senator mccain relative to his position on race or such, i would agree completely.
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i don't believe he should be assigned any title to his questions on racial equality, but i believe that john lewis paid in blood on the edmond pettis bridge for his right to speak his opinion, even if i disagree with it, even if you do. i think that's what you said and i respect you for saying that, but when he was dismissed by the president in a tweet for his lifetime of commitment to civil rights, i found that to be below the belt and unacceptable. day 12. this is day 12 of the trump presidency. it is hard to believe or imagine that it's only been 12 day, as senator feinstein has said, this new president has issueded six executive order and ten presidential memorandum. wide ranging in the issues and subjects that they address.
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they should give us pause because if in 12 days, this is what we have, what can we anticipate for the next three years, 11 months and 16 days. we ought to understand this is just not a hearing on a nomination. an important nomination. this is a constitutional moment. this is a constitutional moment and a challenge to us to envision what the next attorney general will be facing in the remaining three years and 11 months with this president. back in my youth, dubious about the wisdom of the vietnam war, i marched around and carried signs and so did a lot of others. i found curiously gravitated
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toward marine corps generals, hoping there would be more and more of them in the cabinet. my reason, in the case of general pettis and kell di, they are men of proven allegiance to this country, proven integrity, who at the critical moment, when they have to stand up for what is right will do it or will walk away from the job. we can expect nothing less of people who serve this country. either in our military our our cabinet and we can certainly expect nothing less when it comes to the attorney general of the united states of america. i join with the statement made by senator leahy about sallydec is a person of character and integrity. what she did yesterday in issuing this statement saying that she could in good conscious understanding the laws of the
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land of the constitution, enforce the executive orders of president trump when it came to refugees and immigration. that was consistent with what we have seen in attorney generals in the past. they characterize it this morning as the monday night massacre. students of history will know the parallel. it was a saturday night massacre that led to the dismissal of archibald cox as a special prosecutor in the department of justice because he in following the dictator, decision of judge sirika, called on president nixon to disclose information and tapes that could be damming in the watergate investigation. president nixon chose instead to fire him or at least to order the attorney general elliot richardson, to fire him. in response not only elliot, the
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deputy attorney general and archibald cox resigned. that was a key constitutional moment at that time and decisions were made by people of integrity to stand up for the law and constitution of this land, even if it meant walking away from the office they had been asked to hold. trz we can expect nothing less. when senator sessions came to see me as he visited most of u i was heartened by one thing. he didn't come in and tell me that he was the new jeff sessions. that he had reinvented himself. we know quite well, politically and some degree personally. that hefs not involved in executive ofrders, i have to really question that. based on what we've heard from
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senator feinstein and leahy, this article in "the washington post" suggests that he was involved. indirectly, but definitely involved. the directives bore trump's name and another man's fingerprints weren all of them. jeff sessions, an alabama senate backed bencher in this article's opinion has become a singular power in washington. session's ideology is drifren by a visceral eversion to soulless globalism, from free trade, sbe national alliances and the immigration of nonwhites we know it was steve miller who was
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credited with authoring these executive orders on refugees and immigrants. we know that the deputy chief of staff, rick dearborn, was formerly his chief to have staff in the senate. and we know as has been stated, the master mind behind trump's insind yar brand of populism, steven bannon has for years been promoting senator sessions on his brit bart website. it is said that jared cukushner considers sessions a savant. in an e-mail in response, steve bannon describes sessions as a clearinghouse for policy and philosophy in trump's administration. saying he and the senator are at the center of trump's pro america movement and the global nationalist phenomena.
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the president has referred to senator sessions as legendary. to suggest that he did not have influence of impact on the is e issuing of these orders is misleading. he had indirect influence at the highest levels and speak for a moment about those orders because i think they get to the heart of why this nomination is so important today. it is often said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it and i recently learned something i didn't know. and should have noun. about the administration of roosevelt during world war ii. i admire that man for what he did p for america and how he led us through that trying war. but i also came to learn in this book 1944 p by jay winnik, a a former senator staffer, that the policies of the administration when it came to refugees and
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immigrants were not admiral and certainly not right. broderick long served as a major adviser, breckenridge long, s sorry, served as a major advise ner the breckenridge administration. the a continue verse sal man, i quote, longs unwaiver's belief was that all refugees were spies and constitute a menace to the u.s. national security. he it clear, disliked catholics, new yorker, eastern europeans and dispized jews most of all. to run a fall of his antiimmigration hysteria in those days often came with a
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cost. he interpreted the desire to allow british refugee children into the united states as an enormous psicose is on the part of the american people. hard to imagine that in the fdr administration, that was the feeling. and what was the result. we know the story of the ss st. louis. a ship with 900 trying to escape nazi germany, came to the united states and was turped away. those refugees died in the holocaust. that was a decision made for which many of us are saddened and in many way, hurt. so, where are we today? we're in a different america. an america which after world war ii, and the fact that we systemically excluded jewish refugees during world war ii,
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we're an america that views refugee, at least until now, in a much dimpt way. think about the hundreds of thousands of cube ben refugees that we have allowed in, proud that they are our fellow citizens. they were leaving regime headed by fidel castro, a friend of our mortal enemy in the cold war, the soviet ewan yoond as they came to the yirkts did we do extreme vetting? no. we said if you're looking for freedom, this is where you'll find it. they have become integral part of america. an important part of america and they are represented here in the united states senate by three different colleagues. think about those who were jewish in the soviet union. who wanted to escape persecution. did we say stop? you're russians. and russians are our enemies.
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we're going to put you through extreme vetting. no. we welcomed over 100,000 of them to the united states and thank god we did. showing again who we are and what we stand for. it happened after vietnam. it happened after the fall of yugoslavia. it happened time and again as we set an example for the world when it came to refugees and now u, where are we today? because of the executive orders of this president, he has called into question over a half century commitment to ak cementing refugees from around the world. people who have been victims of persecution and genocide and terrorism and war are to be excluded. and is is it because of a real threat to our country? exactly how many syrian refugees have been accused in the united states of america? none. not one. and when you do the lengthy his of 40 years prus of all of the
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millions of ref jees who come sboo this country, you could count on one hand those who have done us wrong. and they were led into the country long before the vetting we now have in place. it is disgrace f. the language that was used during the campaign by candidate donald trump when it came to refugees. disgraceful. i met with these syrian refugee families and many have. i welcome those who were krit of them to take a few minutes and meet them and hear their stories. and you will come to what is at stake here. it is aur reputation in the world. and when p president donald trump offers these executive orders, authored by senator sessions, former staffers, of course we have questions. and we should. >> this is very interesting -- >> this to me get to the heart of why we are having this
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hearing and why we are spending this time. since world war ii, we have tried to set a standard for the world. i'm saddened that 12 days into this administration, president trump is trying to redefine america. in the eyes of world. much was said in earlier comments about senator sessions' work on criminal justice reform. i have unique and personal perspective on that. senator sessions an 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 senate. i'm 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.
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turning to a book here called white rage by carol anderson, who teaches at emory. i gave a copy to jeff sessions. dr. anderson talked about 1986 chen congress passed the antidrug 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 nor addictive than its powder form. i remember those days. i was in the house. it was when lynn bias overdoseded on cocaine and died. there is a new form on the street. dirt cheap, it is lethal, addictive and if a pregnant woman uses it, she's going to cause incal b kabul harm to a fe
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tuss and so, i voted sad to say, i voted, for this antidrug 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 bly sentences under the mandatory sentencing of that law. so, set out to do something about it. i introduced a bill that brought that disparity from 100-1 to 1-1, that there was no difference and they should be sentenced accordingly. at the time, senator graham reduced it to 10-1. sessionings to 20-1. each of those was an improvement and i finally came down to a direct negotiation with senator sessions.
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could he and i agree on number to bring some justice to this 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 released from 100-1 to 18-1. the net impact of that affected thousands of federal prisoners. who were given a chance to have their prison sentences. by judges and prosecutors to see if they'd be allows to be freed. many were. we saved thousands of prison years in the federal system because of the bill that i cosponsored 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, the house committee and on the floor and it was signed in an almost private ceremony by president obama which senator sessions and i attended.
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who now as written have the right to appeal. he said no. i then asked him to join me with senator grassley in the criminal justice reform bill, which for the almost 5,000 remaining prisoner, 100-1, they would get the individual consideration. he said no. little or no follow through when it came to a consistent approach in dealing with with justice and criminal sentencing. when senator sessions came by my office, we talked b about a lot of things. but i talked about one prisoner
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who i invited to his hearing. his name is atten mills. from the city of chicago. he made a terrible mistake as a young man in chicago. he got involved in street level sales of krugs. a three strikes you're out sentencing. at the age of 24, was given a life sentence for the sale of drugs. fortunately in december 2015, president obama commuted his sentence. that the time, he had served 22 years. in federal prison. now, the obama administration, justice department prosecutors were directed that for low level defenders like atten, they should not seek enhancements like the one that led to his
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life sentence. senator sessions strongly opposed those guidelines. when it came to clemency, senator sessions has fiercely criticized his comations. he said and i quote, those were issued in a quote unprecedents wreckless manner and in his words, senator sessions said so-called low level of nonviolent offenders do not exist in the system. senator sessions that these offenders don't exist after the system. he has staunchly opposed using discretion and legislation to address the plight of thousands of people like mills still serving unjust sentences and federal prisons around the
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country. that doesn't leave any options for bring iing about a just outcome and the it's one of the major concerns i have as he seeks this office of attorney general. i was fortunate to chair a subcommittee on this committee. and watching the passage and reducing the opportunity frs early voting, i took this suck committee on 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 legislations to change the law and make it more difficult for people to vote in your state.
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without exception, they said they were none. how many were prosecuted for voert fraud in florida or ohio before they started demanding voter ids? virtually none. this effort suppress votes continues across america. sponsored by some of the strongest special interest groups in our country. the decision that was made, it took away the authority we had to police these state laws and make sure they didn't discrimination against people seeking the right to vote across our country. i listened to senator sessions say that it was good for the south. that the law was changed by the supreme court. i have no particular animous
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against any in any particular part of our country. where ever 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 in votes on women's health. the views on vaw. i agree with senator grassley on this extent. there isn't 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 u portion but time and time again, senator sessions has voted against protection for crime victims. lgbt victim, women who are
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victims. native americans and so many others. when senator leahy offered his basic resolution in this committee, on relation, 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 and important term, 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 know 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 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
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testimony of michael mckays. who was brought as a witness for senator sessions and testified under oath b about his experience as attorney general of the united states. i did not vote for him. because of his position on t 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 fbi ingags i investigation about this russian involvement. michael mccasey, with a brevity of word, said the fbi works for the attorney general. as attorney general, did you have the authority to stop an fbi 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 vest dpags of the russian involvement in this last presidential election or even
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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 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 inpfainfamy. this was an attempt by a foreign power with values inconsistent with values of the united states to change the qulout come of our election, specially to benefit the current president and to defeat hillary clinton. is that worth an investigation? i came to the senate 20 years ago. as the did senator sessions. and when i arrived in as a member of the government affairs committee, we were welcomed into a hearing chaired by fred thompson of tennessee, ranking
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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 clinton 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, former reports were issued. and yet look at the response that the russians were involved in this presidential campaign a fact. which every intelligence agency was confirmed. do you see the same kind of anger and excite m? not at all.
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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. so i come to this conclusion, despite my personal relationships, my working with senator sessions. my respect for his family, that he is the wrong person for this job. we need someone with unquestioned strength, values and integrity. who add that critical institutional 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
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has been described by the trump advisers as a savant and legendary, having the will or determination to do that. and for that reason, i oppose the nomination of jeff sessions as attorney general of the united states. >> i remember senator specter when he was chairman of this committee a few years ago. that goodness we don't try people in the kourts of law based on the flimsy and incomp tant here say evidence in the senate. i guess you could call them all terrontive facts. our friends on the other side seem to be upset about the outcome of the election on november 8th. i could you could say they're going through the stages of
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grief, denial, anger, i think that's where they are right now. they haven't 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 the nominee or the administration. 37 democrats. it had a travel ban. a travel ban. the people from iraq, syria, and other countries that were related to or involved in
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international terrorism. so, 37 democrats voted for a travel ban from some of the same countries they are decrying that is is is subject of the executive order signed by president trump. now, i'm glad general kelly, secretary kelly, revised that to ek collude legal permanent residence unless there's derogatory information that would justify that. i think that's the right thing to do. but the faux outrage of some of the same people who have voted for a travel ban from some of these same countries is a little hard to take at face value. one of the reasons why the election turned tout way it did in my view, is public backlash over a failure of the obama administration and particularly, the holder and lynch justice departments to simply enforce the laws. whether immigration laws. whether they refer we kilter
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riss rather than capture them and question them. claiming that somehow to be a morally sue per yor position. holder was the first in the history attorney general ever to be held for failing to comply with our oversight responsibilities. and now, the idea that deputy attorney general yates has somehow engaged, she 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 legal thety of the executive order and said it was lawful on its face and properly drafted for her then to take the position that it was her prerogative to say
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that the united states would not defe defend in a court of law is 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 that blemish on the long and distinguished career, but for the good she's done. so i said for the hearing on senator sessions, that it really is surreal to sit here and listen to colleagues characterize somebody who we know personally and we serve d with for many years. in the case of the democratic whip for to 20 years. i've been here 15 years and
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served alongside senator sessions. so this isn't just a question of what his record is, we know his record. we know his resume. but as i said at his we know his heart, we know him to be a good and decent man. voting for his different policies that he can't keep his oath to enforce the law. is propostrouse. i've had the great brif ledge of serving in the department of government, and now, in the legislature. 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.
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i have every confidence. that jeff sessions as the attorney general will enforce the law of the land. and all political and policy differences 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 fot. but u the scene was vastly different back in 2009, when president obama was sworn into office. he 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. and now, our dmakt colleagues
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have decided that resistance is their chosen response. i hope they get beyond the anger they're feeling and 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 hill of beans worth of difference. the it's the electoral vote and they know that, but of course they keep bringing that up. as if if that's somehow delegitimizes 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 verdict of the american people and work with us. this boycotting of mark ups like we saw in the finance committee where we had two cabinet nominees that couldn't evbe eve voted on because our democrats
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colleagues have boycotted the mark up, have denied president trump of two more of his cabinet members. our democratic colleagues like to point 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 the 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 decision not to see a third term for president obama's policies, in a
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clinton administration, that they see attorney general sessions as an ant dote to the department of political justice under holder and lynch. thank you. >> senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to express my appreciation join my colleagues in thanking you for giving us the time that we need on this tremendously important topic. i would say that there are a few issues or votes that we will address more important than this one. we all know most of us having been involved in practicing law and many of us in prosecuting, how significant a decision it is who will serve in this role because truly, the attorney general of the united states is
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more than just another law enforcement officer. more than just another lawyer. he must be the legal conscious 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 to do up to the united states. the analogy has been made to the saturday night massacre during the watergate scandal. also to what james comey did,
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when he was faced with an executive order and he similarly said that he could not and would not enforce ilt. he was asked to come there by president bush and as a result, president bush modified his stand. what is so tragically apparent here, is that president trump is unwilling to consider the legal reasons. that sally yates stood her ground and why that position, now, more than f, demands someone who is willing to stand for the rule of law. and for institutional principles.
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it isn't only sally yates who thinks there are constitutional questions about these executive orders for courts all around the country, judges, independent of each other and of any of us and any political organization have also held they're enenforce bable and the reason is that they violate our fundamental constitutional standards, our values as american. 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
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out and serve as a champion of those principles. has to be more than just someone who follows the law as he promised us on numerous occasions during his testimony that 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 zealous champion of constitutional rights and liberties that are threatened every day in this country. now, mrp ever. the president of the united states is traditionally accorded a high level of deference in asemibabling 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. we're sure of that accountability. no more, no cabinet member has a
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greater impact on the day-to-day lives of americans than the attorney general of the united states. he has sweeping authority and any of us who have served in the department of justice know that authority. any of us who have ser served as prosecutors now that authority. because the power to charge someone with a crime, power to impose orders that restrict lib libber thety, the power protect the innocent from unfounded charges shatter their lives even if they are acquitted, is a power of awesome consequence and as the chief federal prosecutor in connecticut, for several years, reporting to the attorney
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general of the united states and of connecticut, i fought alongside and sometimes, against the attorney general of the united states. robert jackson once said and paraphrased during his testimony, that the job of the united states attorney general is not to convict, but assure that justice is done. a sacred obligation. it is the the goal we ought to strive to reach because his decisions must supersede politics. in most cases, there is no recourse. he has that power as the nation's lawyer, not the
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president's counsel. as senator leahy said so well, represents the people of the united states and this job requires a passionate devotion to the rule of law. we've seen how destructive antimuslim, antiimmigrant orders can give rise to violations of the rule of law, the bias and fear and hatred indicated by these orders are -- to our rights and values. our nation is a nation of immigrants. all of us.
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the borders are 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. they provide a recruiting tool to isis, by convincing young people who may be tempted to join their ranks, that 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's wrong for this great country to vote and founded on the ideals of welcoming people seeking that beacon of hope and
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production of opportunity. the rule of law protects us from these kinds of harm. 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 face come forward with information that will enable effective policing. we have seen over these days. impartial and stead last judges holdi holding constitutional right, despite strong pressure from from the president of the united states. and we've seen last night what it means to serve at the department of justice and represent the american people and the constitution.
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the watergate era demonstrates what happens when the rule of law 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
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up questions that my colleagues and i sent to him. and i respectfully say that i cannot support his nomination. at his confirmation hearing, he simply said he would follow the law, enforce the law, that he would respect the law. but he must be a leader, not just a follower. in the hearing, our republican colleagues had 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 his personal feelings are not what's at issue here, in protecting institutional rights and libber theties and pursuing justice, he must be a champion and his
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record demonstrates a hostility and antipathy, in fact, strong opposition to women's health care and privacy right, antidiscrimination measure, religious freedom safeguards. he is prided himself on vociferous opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. a measure that passed the united states senate with 68 votes, a bipartisan majority and he has opposed a criminal justice reform bill, that has attracted a group of 25 cosponsors, republicans as well as democrats. he even split with his own party on the violence against women's act, demonstrating in reasons that he articulated antipathy to important elements of these
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rights and protection. he opposed hate crime. his views have been out of the mainstream and there is nothing in his record, including his testimony before his committee, that indicates he will be the institutional champion that all of us, republicans and democrats, value in the attorney general. president trump's vast business holding and he has refused to divest himself from them, present an unprecedented threat of conflict of spres. the attorney general must be willing to maintain partiality, including a special counsel or independent prosecutorer, if
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necessary. we can all imagine scenarios when this set might be necessary and to commit broad ly from thee principles is necessary for the next attorney general and yet, when i ask senator sessions about enforcement of questions about illegal conflicts of interest involving the president and his family, such as violations of the claus and the stock act, he equivocated. when i asked him about appointing a special counsel on criminal wrong doing at deutsche bank, which is owed more than $300 million by president trump, he equivocated. when i asked him about the investigation of russian hacking, he equivocated. senator durbin has rightly
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pointed out that. his answers to follow up questions have been no better. they give me and official self-enrichment that the nature needs. at a moment when this administration faces ethical and legal controversy unprecedented in scope and scale as is the president's well. senator sessions' record over many years failed to demonstrate his core convictions and commitments necessary in the next attorney general. he has failed to be that unshakable shlgs ethical voice we need at this moment and that is necessary to protect and defend our constitution. back in 1986, the judiciary
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committee rejected his nomination to a federal judgeship due to remarks he made and actions he took in a position of public trust as united states tourn in alabama. my judgment about this nomination is not based it is on his record since. on voting rights, senator sessions has often condoned -- americans, exercising their franchise, a leading po opponro in the voting rights act to ensure that african-americans can vote in his home state and advocated for leadlessly restrictive and draconian laws, as threats and voter fraud for curtailing the real and legitimate rights of entire groups of voters.
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he regarded a court decision in shelby as good news in striking down some of these key provisions. on privacy senator sessions has passionately opposed this long-standing american right which is enshrined in five decades of supreme court precedent. it protects women's health care and personal decision involving reproductive rights. at a time when those rights face unprecedented assault he has continued to condemn roe v. wade and the many court decisions upholding that case. equally disturbing, senator sessions is supported by groups like operation rescue who defend the murder of doctors and the vilify indication and
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criminalization of women. women would understandably feel less secure under these rights. he has advocated religious test to determine which immigrants can enter this country. he was an advocate of a ban on muslims come sbointo the countr during the past campaign. ch when this issue arose, senator sessions was the only senator to argue for religious tests and against principals of religious liberty that animated -- >> senator bloomen thbloomentha. >> i'm happy to start over.
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>> bend it down like this. >> bend the end of it down. >> thank you. i think i may have been more persuasive when you couldn't hear me. >> senator sessions has called for a time honored tradition that dates back to reconstruction, 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
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have raised families an spent their entire lives here. senator sessions declined my invitation at his nomination hearing to exercise moral and legal leadership and d-- he refused to reject the possibility of using information voluntarily information provided by daca applicants to deport them and their families, as a matter of due process 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. as senator sessions as attorney general, that sense of legal conscious would be lacking. on issues of discrimination and
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equal protection senator sessions has publicly opposed marriage equality claiming 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 crimes, violent assaults involving bigotry, race, or sexual orientation and even defended president trump's shocking video in engaging in sexual assault. senator sessions has said they may be fairly judged by who
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sur supports them, but he is backed by groups that have ties to white supremacists, and founder who openly maintains the goal of maintaining a quote european -- society. neither important parts of senator sessions was reported on the questionnaire, he prepared for the judiciary committee and i gave senator sessions an opportunity at his hearing in followup questions to reputate these groups, hate groups, who have endorsed his nomination and supported him in the past and instead doubled down, american muslims of extensive ties to
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terrorism was quote a most 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. in deed, 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 the need for prosecuting corporate wrong
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doing because ultimately jail and individual responsibility are the most effective deterrent against white collar crime, but this job, this decision, this responsibility are different. here, my disagreements with senator sessions stem from bedrock constitutional principals 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
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rule of law and to make sure that the president is never above the law and never thinks he is 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 forever i stand in opposition to his nomination. thank you, mr. chairman. >> before senator lee, we have a vote in 20 minutes so i would 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 generally spoke in shorter times than democrats so if senator lee speaks about the usual time of republicans and democrats start on a 30-minute
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speech, you may want to think about letting a republican speak ahead of you. the other thing is that we've had two-hour rule used against the finance committee, no democrat showed up at the finance committee so that the secretary of hhs could be voted out. i hope the way i've been running this committee we would have the fairness on the part of the minority, let this committee go beyond 2:00 so we can finish today. if there's the reason to invoke the two-hour rule then i would suggest as soon as it can be conveniently called in the morning we will have a meeting of the committee and i will call for a roll call vote just as soon as we get a quorum because i think everybody knows how everybody is going to vote and out of the fairness that i've
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given to everybody to speak as long as they want to and that's legitimate, that's the way we're going to run the committee, the way senator leahy ran the committee and i hope we can get done today. so senator lee. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> like many on this committee who have spoken today, i have disagreed with senator sessions a lot. in fact i've been here six years just starting my second term. i was thinking i may well have disagreed with senator sessions as often as i have disagreed with any other single member of this committee. probably more than i've disagreed with any other republican serving on this committee. shortly after i arrived the senate six years ago, we had some of our first disagreements as we were dealing with the reauthorization of the usa
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patriot act and later the fisa amendments. we disagreed on amendments that i introduced with senator durbin to limit the intrusiveness of u.s. intelligence gathering activities relative to american citizens. we've continued to disagree on a number of things over the years. senator leahy and i introduced the usa freedom act a law that was passed with bipartisan support sign into law by president obama that ended the w warrantless practice of bulk data collection with regard to americ american citizens, senator sessions was a vocal disagreer of the act.
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also involves criminal justice reform. senator durbin and senator whitehouse and others joined with me to achieve criminal justice reform including the senates reform and corrections act and senator sentencings act. he opposed us on those. senator sessions has disagreed with me on a number of immigration reforms that i've supported. senator sessions opposed the work that i did with senator feinstein when she and i introduced the free process guarantee act to make sure that the u.s. government cannot indefinitely detain citizens on u.s. without charge or trial and whole host of constitutional rights and fund mental concept of due process as well. senator sessions has opposed efforts under taken with senator haley with regard to reforming a
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1986 law, the privacy act, it was passed when i was in the ninth grade, a law that was passed when no one new what e-mails were outside of the government, military and a handful of elite mill universities, and gives the warrant of reading e-mails, senator sessions and i take different position with legislation supported by many including senator sessions regarding electronic communications transaction records so senator sessions and i have a fundamentally different view toward the law and many issues and many issues we're dealing with topics that cut to the core of constitutional policy if not the spirit but also the letter of what the constitution requires and yet in
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this entire time that i've been at the united states senate serving with senator sessions with whom i have disagreed. i have never once sensed in degree of disrespect toward me, my views or the views of any of our colleagues. i have never once heard him refer to the views of a colleague even a colleague who bitterly disagrees sincerely disagrees with him on these or any whole host of other top pic -- topics, antipathy toward any group. i've never seen senator sessions refer to any colleague or any person with anything other than respect. i cannot say the same for every
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member of this body. in fact i don't know that i have ever worked with another person who has a greater degree of respect for the opinions of others, who has a greater capacity to respect the fact that people of goodwill and strong intellect can come to different conclusions whether in government or in any other context as to how to solve a particular problem. i've never seen senator sessions raise his voice in anger toward a colleague. i have never seen senator sessions accuse someone of possessing ill-motives toward any group or any individual even when he strongly disagrees with the conclusions they reach. this i believe is precisely the kind of human being we need to
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serve as the attorney general of the united states especially when as is the case with senator sessions these caharacter ris ticks are bound up to a man who has defended and committed his entire life to the law. whether you agree with him or not, this is a man, senator sessions who as u.s. attorney in alabama as attorney general of the state of alabama and as a u.s. senator has shown over and over again that he has a deep and abiding love and respect for the law and the constitution of the united states that he has a deep commitment to the notion that the rule of law presupposes that our laws consist of words, those words have meaning. you have to respect each word in
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order to respect the law in order to guarantee that ours remains a system, operates under the rule of law, that laws govern us rather than the will and whim of individual human beings. this is part of what makes it so important to have someone who is i independent, has independence in his dna who has the spirit of respect for the rule of law, respect for one's fellow human beings and yet a willingness to do what's right especially when it's difficult. one of the things i've never seen from senator sessions in addition to those already mentioned is i've never seen him blindly defer to what's easy. blindly follow those who would
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like to have him following them simply because they asked for it. he doesn't do that. that's not his style. it's not something he's capable of. no, senator sessions is someone who studies out each issue on his own, on its own merits and then makes a decision for himself. there are very few people i know who have this chraracteristic ad the very kind of attorney general we want him to do. i like the way he put this, he said that the attorney general quote would have to resign before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes would be unlawful or unconstitutional. closed quote. now he means this, i know he means it and i know he's capable of living up to it because this
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is how he's conducted himself in the united states senate an that's exactly the kind of person we need as our next attorney general. i want to caution each of my colleagues against the instinct to either accuse or imply an acquisition relative to someone's heart, relative to someone's intentions simply because they happen to disagree with you on a question of policy or on a whole host of questions of policy. respect for the rule of law itself and respect for the process that produces good law i think requires us to do better than to accuse someone of having
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hostility toward the rights of american people or antipathy toward any group of people simply because that person doesn't share your view that a particular legislative solution might be the best course of action to take in that area. senator sessions is eminently qualified for this position and would be one of the most experienced well prepared attorneys general in the history of the united states after he's confirm today this position. for this reason i will be supporting his confirmation and i will be voting enthusiastically resoundingly yes in committee and on the floor. thank you, mr. chairman. >> here comes senator coons. >> senator coons is next. in nine minutes i'll go vote and
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so one of my colleagues chair while i'm gone and i'll come right back. senator coons. >> thank you, chairman grassley, members of the committee. i appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on our deliberations today about the nomination of senator sessions to serve as attorney general of the united states. i have gotten to know senator sessions in our six years of service together on this committee and through other vehicles and i believe that serving as attorney general of the united states is very different from serving as senator. these are different roles with different priorities and so i will say at the outset that senator sessions have worked constructively together on this committee on several important matters. i'm including the reauthorization of victims of choose act and restoring funding
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for the federal public defender service. how is the office of attorney general of the united states different from the office of the united states senator? i think that is a -- >> we don't have a quorum. we have to have at least six people. there anybody in the back room that make as quorum? >> you could ask consent to speak if you want to continue to speak and we can continue. >> mr. chairman is your desire that we recess to go vote. >> my desire is that we would continue through the vote. >> in the absence of the quorum is it -- i'm a little unclear -- >> you can speak. >> okay. one, two, three, four five, we are one senator short of a quorum, do we believe a senator
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to be nearby. >> by consent you may speak. do you ask consent to speak or not? >> mr. chairman, i think i would prefer to wait. >> i assume you're going to get the word you should not ask for consent to speak. >> mr. chairman i prefer to speak with a quorum present if possible. >> okay. >> we stand at ease until we determine that we get a quorum or don't meet at all. it's my preference to continue until we get done today or tomorrow. >> if people in the majority don't know the importance of this meeting then how could we expect the minority to consider the importance to have meeting?
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>> mr. chairman, my understanding from staff is that there are several senators fairly close. >> okay. i see one, two, three, four, five, six, proceed with your speech. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman and i appreciate the presence of a quorum. i was beginning with an inquiry to the difference, the distinction between service as united states senator and attorney general, it is our top federal law enforcement official, but more is required of the attorney general than a simple pledge to enforce the law. the attorney general has tremendous power and influence to chart the strategy and priorities of the justice department. and the deployment of its resources, which include over 100,000 employees and more than $27 billion budget. often said that the department of justice is the nation's largest law firm and most potent
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against the injustice. >> senator, i thought six was what it took for you to speak, it's actually seven, so we have six of you here. so, you should probably just stop for a minute. and we'll just see what happens here. you don't have to show me, i take your word for it. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm sure senator mcconnell will make sure the people of the party know how important this meeting is.
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we have seven present. will you proceed. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> feel free to not start over but let us know where you left off. >> thank you mr. chairman, i n begun that senator sessions and i worked together. the role of the attorney general is a different one than senator. >> it must also be prepared to fight for, stand up for the vulnerable in our society. advance civil rights, move justice. defend the rule of law in times of peace and pressure, against pressure from powerful forces even at times the president himself. i approach my responsibilities
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to consider senator sessions nomination as a member of the senate judiciary committee with appreciation of the centrality of this role of democracy. this is a role we all have beyond politics. i reviewed his 30 year service. including for -- for the state of alabama and his words and actions in the united states senate. i participated the thorough hearing. i heard from hundreds of delawareans, who gave significant input about senator sessions's nomination and this careful review has left me concerned about his commitment to core responsibilities vested with the attorney general as the leader of the united states department of justice.
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i'm troubled by senator sessions's record on a series of issues fundamental to american values and let me summarize across a range of them. on civil rights, senator sessions has criticized protections for lgbt individuals, individuals with disabilities and racial minorities, he has disparaged groups such as a aclu, and naacp and criticized nominees among the membership. on criminal justice a number of us have worked together in a bipartisan way to work on criminal justice reform and senator sessions has stood firmly in way of bipartisan sentencing reform efforts. he has typically supported harsher prosecutions and longer sentences at a time when a growing consensus recognizes it
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ravages some communities and does not make us safer as a whole. on domestic violence, he recently voted against violence against women. joe bidden has helped millions of women and lives. on immigration senator sessions has taken a hard line stance outside the mainstream of either party. he was the leading proponent of a bill, worked at great length by this committee and expressed support for draconian state law that is courts have found to be unconstitutional. senator sessions on the topic of religious freedom was one of the very few republicans who voted against senator leahys, the united states must not bar individuals from entering into the united states based on their religion.
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senator sessions was an early defender of then candidate donald trump's proposed muslim ban. on civil liberties senator sessions has advocated for expanding the scope of government surveillance powers and opposed the efforts to protect the privacy of americans, on torture, senator sessions has once again split from the mainstream of either party only one of nine senators to vote for the detainee treatment act and -- senators mccain and feinstein for interrogation tactics not authorized by the manual. on voting rights, senator sessions has praised the supreme court shelby county decision for quote good news for the south unquote. i thought it important i read
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some from a very long letter from kreda scott king. she did not have the opportunity to testify. i think there's value in hearing her words at that time. i will read a few excerpts. this was not entered into the record in 1986. quote civil rights leaders including my husband have fought long and hard to unfetered access to the ballot box. senator sessions knew uses the -- he seeks to serve as a federal judge. mr. sessions conduct from his u.s. attorney from his difference toward violations of civil rights laws indicate he
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does not have the -- to be a federal judge. i was privileged to join martin and overs for voting rights in 1965, martin wuas particularly impressed to get the neighboring county votes. -- i'm skipping. a united political organization would remain in perry county long after the other marchers had left this organization the civic lead started by mr. turner and others as martin predicted continue to direct the drive for votes an other rights and in the years since the voting rights was passed, black americans and elsewhere have made important strides to participate actively in the electoral access, the number of votes has doubled since 1965 this would not have been possible without the voting
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rights act. particularly in the south efforts continue to be made to deny blacks access to the polls even where they can continue institute the majority of the -- constitute the majority of the voters. a person who has exhibited so much hostility to the enforcement of those laws should not be elevated to the federal bench. i'm skipping to the conclusion. free chexercise is so fundament to american democracy, we cannot infringe upon it. none have strongered more and the win to vote than black americans, none has had denied to the ballot box, schemes have been used to block the black vote. the range of techniques with
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repressing the black vote run the gamut. -- legalized fraud grandfather excludes and literary tests. they represent one more technique to deny them of the most precious of franchises, they were conducted only in the black belt counties where they achieved local government. they have been used it to their advantage for years, then when blacks began to use it for their success the investigation continues. this letter from greta king goes on but i thought that letter was of value to bring into the record today. we must take into account the actions taken by many to block
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access to the ballot and the very serious concerns i have to me about senator sessions's nomination, over all on his opinions on torture, immigration, criminal justice reform, voting rights is deeply concerning especially when considered the context of the role of the attorney general of the united states, who directs our countries civil rights division, national security division and many other critical offices. i asked senator sessions several questions for the record to better understand his positions and better examine his record and assess how he would act as attorney general. i asked questions with regard to many pressing issues, including conflicts of interest and the emoluments clause, including donald trump's claim that millions of people voted illegally, on birthright citizenship and changes to rules
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of criminal procedure. senator sessions indicated in his response he had not studied the issue or conducted research on it in many areas critical to my consideration. frankly i found these responses to be frustrating coming from someone who has served as a public official for three decades, give me concern either the nominee is not fully prepared for the post he my assume or not being approached with the deliberation it deserves. even in the cursory responses i did receive written answers to questions, there were some skpo responses that gave me great pause. in response to whether -- is lawful. he stated i am unaware of any proposal for interment of mer american citizens. no persons should be returned without clear legal basis.
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senator sessions did state he does not believe -- should be relied on by law, but am concerned this leaves open the possibility the enterment of american citizens. i had looked for more clarity on this vital question, i've asked senator sessions both in our hearing and in writing about the unconstitutional use of the hitching post to punish prisoners in alabama during his tenure as the attorney general of the state of alabama. in my written questions i pointed out again after having pressed him on our personal meeting and hearing that the civil rights division of the united states department of justice sent him two letters during his service advising this practice was unconstitutional
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and should promptly stop but senator sessions has refused to explain what his view of the hitching post is and why he did not intervene to stop this unconstitutional practice while he was the attorney general of the state of alabama. when i also asked in writing senator sessions's view of legal office of opinions whether agrees with guidance and candid, independent advice even when it may be inconsistent with the powers of -- unquote, he did not address, inconsistent with the desires of policymakers such as the president. when i asked senator sessions whether religious institutions in particular such as mosques should be targeted for warrant less surveillance he chose to answer a different question relying only that he did not quote believe that a building or organization should be targeted for a surveillance because it is a religious institution unquote. i have submitted a number of
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followup questions to senator sessions on these important issues but have not yet received responses and would respectfully ask these questions be afforded the attention that such serious and now pressing matters deserve. i believe we should not proceed to a vote until these questions have been answered. finally, colleagues, president trump's actions over the cast week and indeed the last day have shined a brighter spotlight on the responsibilities to have department of justice and the critical need for an independent attorney general who can reach their own conclusions and stand up to the president when necessary. last week he signed executive orders the to bill a costly wall at the southern border and massive expansion of interior improvement. they are in our country's interest, that's why in 2013 i
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joined many colleagues in voting for a comprehensive reform bill that would have invested another 44 billion through a series of targeted and effective actions that bipartisan passed the senate but never got a vote in the house fail today proceed because members like senator sessions were focused on defeating it. building wall on the southern border is nothing but an expensive symbol of fear and insecurity. the toxic rhetoric around these executive or executive orderers has also weakened relationships with some of our vital allies, targeting cities harms trusts with law enforcement communities they protect, threatens to take funding, and limits officers and elected officials ability to determine how best to keep their own communities safe.
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they have fostered fears least of which the dreamers who have only known america as their own and are scared they will eminently lose everything. one of these sergeant oscar vasquez who served, testified at the nomination. sergeant vasquez represents the very best of who we are and testified that because of senator sessions's policies he was very concerned about his future considering he be determined attorney general. then just on friday president trump issued an executive order that closed america's doors to refugees and targeted travellers from seven muslim majority nations the order ignored the reality that our soldiers have been serving side by side with translators and aids from several nations that individuals from these nations are contributing to communities as
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doctors and scientists and graduate students and entry prenurs. in the wake of this most recent president trump's orders fleeing violence and persecution at home have been unable to enter the united states even those who have completed years of vetting and waiting. even lawful detainees were kept at the airports and my view targeted because of their religion, denied access to lawyers and separated from their families. i publicly decry these actions as being unconstitutional illegal and unamerican. they have made us less safe and yesterday sally yates demonstrated the courage of attorney general and refusing the awesome pour of the justice department to use this order and she has served in the justice department for 27 years
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prosecuting white collar fraud, political corruption and terrorism before advancing up the ranks to over see day today actions, yesterday president trump called her weak on borders and said she betrayed the department and fired her. the next attorney could not be clearer, check your independent judgment at the door and get in line. now more than ever it will be of paramount importance to have an attorney general who can when called for resist these powerful forces and stand on the side of justice. given all the reasons in his record of service here in the senate and in the state of alabama as attorney and u.s. attorney i do not believe that senator session the right man nor this create call point in time. he must be a leader, a defender of the rule of law even under
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enormous pressure, after carefully reviewing, it is my position that senator sessions has not led his -- to be the attorney general. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i appreciated the discussion here. and it seems to me that we're setting a new standard that just about nobody could ever overcome to be nominated and confirmed fb a cabinet position. as has been stated here, i agree with senator sessions i disagree often, i was on the other side of the immigration bill, we battled that a long time but always found that senator sessions though he disagreed to be kucourteous, thoughtful and t at all demeaning those who had
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different views. on other issues i've differed with him. same applies there. when we consider loretta lynch in this committee, it was not a popular position to take in favor of her in my home state among republicans, let me tell you, but she was qualified. i disagreed with her on most every issue that she was qualified, and i fear that if we continue to have this kind of standard then no president will ever be able to fill his or her cabinet, so i will enth enthusicically support the vote for senator sessions, he's qualified and he's a good man. i yield back. is there somebody who hasn't been heard? >> yes.
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thank you i would like to join my colleagues in making remarks on senator sessions' nomination. i've been please todd to work w senator sessions such as adoption and human trafficking. i respect his efforts to answer my questions. and i also acknowledge that he has since provided me written responses to many more questions. at the same time his records and his views on critical issues of justice including voting rights, the violence against women act, immigration, have led me to conclude that i cannot support his nomination. i think the violence against women act is particularly concerning to me, the vast majority of senators voted for that bill all 20 women senators democrats and republicans voted for that bill. and to me, that is one of the
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major issues that i've taken on over the years as the county attorney and then in the senate and it disappoints me great by because i think the reasons which was the tribal jurisdiction issue i've had so many tribes in my state that have had trouble getting anyone to prosecute their cases and we simply allowed for duo jurisdiction when someone committed an act of violence that wasn't a member of the tribe and didn't make sense to me. the voting rights act as well, we've made progress but recent actions to cut back, my state had the highest voter turnout in the last election and actually turned the legislature republican. and so i see in iowa they have a high voter turnout and that is more of a republican state. high voter turnouts in places
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like vermont have maybe gone the other way, but the point is that the high voter turnout states tend to have rules that are easier for people to deal with to vote whether it's same day registration, whether it's less restrictive voting and i do not understand why we would be limiting voting and i think i want a justice department and at general that takes that on as a prior to. one thing i want to raise is the fundamental importance to have freedom to have press. my dad because newspaper man and so i'm especially sensitive to maintaining the press's role as a watchdog but on a larger note the role of journalist senator sessions critical to our nation's democracy, that's found in the first amendment. thomas jefferson so lead all avenues open to truth and the
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way to do that is through freedom of the press. we have someone in the white house that said that the press should simply keep its mouth shut and i think that is not the attitude we should have about something enshrined in our constitution. in senator session's hearing i asked whether he would stand in place, to subpoena journalists or records and keep them engaged in news gathering activity, the two pooefrevious attorney gener committed to not putting them in jail -- senator sessions opposed the free flow of information act so i have concerns there. another issue where senator sessions actually has pledged to keep the antitrust division away
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from politics i think i'll put my statement as the ranking member of the antitrust subcommittee. last year, a life long antitrust pr practitioner, we have seen a wave of mergers whether in health care, telecommunications and i emphasized if he is confirmed as attorney general how important it will be to continue to review those deals undue economic power can exacerbate inequality. it's something that has been used to keep an even playing field. i think that's really important. i'm really concerned about the status to have cops program. i've led that bill along with
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senator merkowski, i asked chuck cantorberry, it's a very important program and we will be reintroducing our bill and i think that's important for the department of justice. i believe there's a pending vote and perhaps i will return after my colleagues have an opportunity to speak but i also obviously concerned by the actions of last night and whether or not we're going to have independence when it comes to legal decisions after the way the refugee order was drafted with very little legal input and is now become our chaos and mess across our country and that's not a good beginning obviously for this administration when it comes to trying to draft things carefully and getting input from law enforcement and from the justice department and the
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attorney general. i'm aware that senator sessions was not involved the drafting of that order, but i do believe it's something that we need to further pursue with him to make sure going forward there's ample opportunity when it's something that affects literally millions of people across the world that there's more input. with that, mr. chair, i yield the floor or at least the committee moment and i will say in closing if senator sessions is confirmed i will do all i can to work with him on behalf of the people of my state. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chair. i used to have a direction from my folks in the house caucus before we would go to a particularly contentious matter if it's already been said don't say it again, so i'm not going to repeat what's been said by some of my colleagues except i would like to associate myself with senator cornyn and senator lee's comments in particular.
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you know, i think that the discussion here seems odd in that we're really judge k senator sessions with whom i have several disagreements as a legislature or lawmaker -- >> senator tillis would you ask consent to continue to speak because of quorum. >> without objection. >> is there any objection? >> object. >> there's objection. so why don't you all go vote. i'll stay here and pohopefully t a quorum back, around will the whip tell every republican this is a very important meeting this country without an attorney what we saw last night is a major problem, we need to be here as republicans and get this job done. we stand at's until we get a quorum again.
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independence from president trump. over the weekend, president trump ordered what looks like a religious test from immigrants people are being stranded in airports and cut off from their lives from america because they are muslim. i asked him if he thought smudge someone's religion was smuf to qualify him or her as holding extreme views. i did not receive a satisfactory answer during his confirmation hearing, i asked senator sessions if he would honor the historical role of the attorney general and maintain strict independence from the white house. again, i did not receive a satisfactory answer. i am particularly concerned about this issue because this
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morning, last night, president trump fired acting attorney general sally yates because very importantly she refused to be a rubber stamp for what i consider his despicable executive order, in effect establishing a muslim ban. by firing sally yates, president trump sent a very clear message, that he expects the attorney general to do what he wants, not what the constitution or laws require. to understand how an attorney general should discharge his or her responsibility, we need only look to an exchange between sally yates and senator sessions during her confirmation hearing in 2015. senator sessions at her confirmation hearing said, i quote, do you understand that in this political world there will be people calling, demanding, pushing, insisting on things that they do not know what they're asking for?
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and could indeed be corrosive of the rule of law and diminish the respect of the department of justice has, could diminish the rule of law in the united states. are you aware of that? you already learned that the time you've been here -- learned that the time you've been here. miss yates said, and i quote her, well, you're right, senator, i am not from here. i've only been here for a couple of months, but i can tell you i'm committed to the department of justice, i love our department, i care deeply about our mission, and i would do everything in my power to protect the integrity in the department that is the department of justice. senator sessions went on, quote, you have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say no about. do you think the attorney general has responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that is improper? if the views of the president are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy
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attorney general say no? miss yates said, senator, i believe the ag or deputy ag has the obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president. she did that and we all know what happened to her. the people of the united states deserve an attorney general who will stand up to the president to defend the constitution, especially when the president is wrong. my colleagues know i'm not given to hyperbole, but at this moment, less than two weeks into the trump presidency, i cannot overstate the message that president trump is sending to his administration, and to the american people, that he will not allow anyone to tell him that he is wrong. there are a number of other issues i would like to address as well. during senator sessions' confirmation hearing, i also pressed him for a commitment to vigorously protect every
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citizen's right to vote, particularly with regard to section 2 of the voting rights act, which safeguards americans from discriminatory voting laws. and we all know that after the decision that was made by the supreme court that basically gutted the voting rights act, there is one section that remained, section two, that allows for looking at these laws, analyzing these law s from the point of whether it has a discriminatory effect. at a time when our president is making false claims of massive voter fraud, we need an attorney general who will vigorously protect the right to vote. senator sessions did not provide me with a satisfactory answer that he was scrutinized voting laws for discriminatory effect under section 2 of the voting rights act. this means challenging these kind of voting law s which many states have enacted after that supreme court decision, that challenging these laws will be
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left to individuals and groups such as the naacp with their limited resources. i also ask senator sessions whether he would honor the department of justice's consent decrees, some 20 of them, that address police misconduct and enhanced accountability. senator sessions did not adequately assure me that his department would uphold these agreements. in fact, he left the door open for renegotiating these agreements. i pressed senator sessions for a commitment to defend roe v. wade and federal court and to enforce the laws that guarantee the constitutionally protected women's right to choose. senator sessions did not disavow his past comments that roe v. wade was one of the worst supreme court cases ever decided, and that to this case was not based on the constitution, when, in fact, the majority decision did base their decision on roe v. wade on the
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constitution. should the supreme court be presented with a case that provides them the opportunity to overrule roe v. wade i asked senator sessions what he would direct the solicitor general to do. he said this was hypothetical and didn't respond. senator sessions' view on roe v. wade is clear. would any of us be surprised if as attorney general he would support overturning roe v. wade, should the opportunity to do so present itself. as one of his first actions, the president reinstated a ban on foreign aid to health providers around -- abroad, who discuss abortion. i seriously question whether the president, his cabinet, and advisers will protect a woman's right to choose. over the past two months, i've heard from thousands of my constituents and a number of prominent civil rights organizations including a number who testified at the
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confirmation hearing of senator sessions, questioning his nomination. so i will vote against the nomination of jeff sessions as attorney general because i am deeply concerned about how he would use his prosecutorial discretion. i would be concerned about his independence from the president. turning to the topic of president trump's executive orders, establishing basically a muslim ban, we have heard from my democratic colleagues that senator sessions' fingerprints are on this executive order. stoking fear of minorities and immigrants is an unfortunate but undeniable part of our nation's history. and this fear has been used to justify terrible things from the trail of tears to slavery and the treatment of african-americans in our country. in 1882, decades of incitement against chinese immigrants
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resulted in the passage of the chinese exclusion act. and immoral law that banned all chinese immigration. this law and others that followed created a culture of fear that culminated in the mass internment of japanese americans during world war ii. this was one of the darkest periods of american history, that took decades for our country to acknowledge. yesterday we commemorated what would have been civil rights icon fred kormatz's 98th birthday. as japanese americans were rounded up for incarceration, he was only 23 at the time, bravely resisted the internment, all the way to the united states supreme court, which upheld his conviction as being justified by the ex-geneses of war. 40 years late, documents that have been kept from the supreme court when they reviewed the
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conviction came to light and it showed that japanese americans were not involved in seditious acts and that a mass incarceration of japanese americans based on race was not justified. mr. koromatsu waited 40 years for a court in california to overturn his conviction. president reagan gave a moving speech in which he apologized for the internment, and i would like to read that speech now because i think it is important. it is a reminder that what we're doing now is not right. president reagan said, quote, the members of congress and distinguished guests, my fellow americans, we gather here today to right a grave wrong. more than 40 years ago shortly after the bombing of pearl harbor, 120,000 persons of japanese ancestors living in the united states were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in makeshift internment camps. this action was taken without
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trial, without jury. it was based solely on race for these 120,000 were americans of japanese dissent. yes, the nation was then at war, struggling for survival, and it is not for us today to pass judgment upon those who may have made mistakes while engaged in that great struggle. yet we must recognize that the internment of japanese americans was just that, a mistake. for throughout the war japanese americans in the tens of thousands remained utterly loyal to the united states. indeed, scores of japanese americans volunteered for armed services, many stepping forward in the internment camps themselves. the 442nd regimental combat team made up entirely of japanese americans served with immense distinction to defend this nation. their nation. yet back at home, the soldiers' families were being denied the very freedom for which so many of the soldiers themselves were
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laying down their lives. congressman norman mineta with us today was ten years old when his family was interned. and the congressman's words, this is norm speaking, my own family was sent first to santa anita racetrack. we showered in the horse paddocks, some families lived in converted stables. others in hastily thrown together barracks. we were then moved to hart mountain, wyoming, where our entire family lived in one small room of a rude tar paper barracks. president reagan went on to say, like so many tens of thousands of others, the members of the y mineta family lived in those conditions not for a matter of weeks or months, but for three long years. the legislation that i, president reagan, am about to sign, provides for restitution payment to each of the surviving japanese americans of the 120,000 who were relocated or
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detained. yet no payment can make up for those lost years. what is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. for here we right a wrong. i'd like to note that the bill i'm about to sign also provides funds for members of the alu community who were evacuated from the aleutian islands after japanese attack in 1942. this action was taken for protection and property was lost or damaged that has never been replaced. and now in closing, i wonder whether you permit me one person reminiscent, one prompted by an old newspaper report sent to me by rose ochee, a former internee, this is president reagan continuing, the clipping comes from the pacific citizen and is dated december 1945. this clipping said, arriving from -- arriving by plane from washington, the article begins,
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general joseph w. stillwell pinned the distinguish service cross on larry masuta in a simple ceremony on the porch of a small frame shack near talbert orange county. she was one of the first americans to return from relocation centers to california's farm lands. vinegar joe stillwell was there that day to honor masuta, mary's brother, while mary and her parents were in an internment camp, he served as staff sergeant. in one action, he ordered his men back and advanced through heavy fire calling a mortar for 12 hours engaged in a single-handed barrage of nazi positions. several weeks later, he staged another lone advance. this time it cost him his life. the newspaper clipping notes that her two surviving procedures were with mary and
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her parents on the little porch that morning. these two brothers, like the heroic kazuo served in the united states army. after general stillwell made the award, louise albrighten, a texas girl, told how a texas h battalion was saved. others pay tribute. one yun aoung actor said, ameri stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but on a way, an ideal, not in spite of, but because of our background we have had all the strength in the world. that is the american way, end quote. the name of that young actor, was ronald reagan. and yes, the ideal of liberty and justice for all that is still the american way. in making these statements, president reagan signed hr-442
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so fittingly named in honor of the 442nd. and he went on to, god bless our country. and this is how president reagan ended his remarks, upon signing that historic legislation. in the years that followed many american presidents also reflected on the justice visited upon japanese americans during world war ii. in record of their service to the nation, successive american presidents awarded the presidential medal of freedom to fred koromatsu in different years. and it is not often that i can read into our record comments made by the president, presidents as they awarded these medal of freedom, so i would hi like to do so now. i would like to read president clinton's remarks as he awarded fred the medal of freedom.
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in 1942, an ordinary american took an extraordinary stand, he boldly opposed the forced internment of japanese americans during world war ii after being convicted for failing to report for relocation, mr. koromatsu took his case to the supreme court. the high court ruled against him. 39 years later, he had his conviction overturned in federal court and empowering tens of thousands of japanese americans and giving him what he said he wanted most of all, the chance to feel like an american once again. in the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls, plessy, brown, parks. to that distinguished list today we add the name of fred koromatsu. those are president clinton's comments. in 2010, california established
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fred koromatsu day of civil liberties and the constitution. other states followed including hawaii, virginia, and florida. i want to also read into the record president obama's speech, awarding gordon hiroboashi the medal of freedom. gordon knew what it was like to stand alone. as a student at the university of washington, gordon was one of only three japanese americans to defy the executive order that forced thousands of families to leave their homes, their jobs, and their civil rights behind and move to internment during world war ii. he took his case all the way to the supreme court, and he lost. and it would be another 40 years before that decision was reversed giving asian-americans everywhere a small measure of justice. in gordon's words, it takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to stand up
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for the constitution, it is not worth the paper it is written on. president obama went on to say, this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up. in his open defiance of discrimination against japanese americans during world war ii, gordon demanded our nation live up to his -- principles. gordon's legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals. the same goes for the other person whose comments i would like to read upon his receipt of the medal of freedom and that is minoro 2015. on a does night in march of 1942, minoro left his law office. he was a lawyer, to walk around portland, oregon. it was a seemingly ordinary act that defied the discriminatory curfew imposed on japanese
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americans during world war ii. men took his case to the supreme court and lost. a decision he fought for the rest of his life. yet despite what japanese americans endured, suspicion, hostility, forced removal, internment, meant never stop believing in the promise of his country. never stopped fighting for equality and justice for all. believe in the greatness and great ideals of this country, we think there is a future for all humanity in the united states of america. today the legacy has never been more important. it is a call to our national conscience, a reminder of our enduring obligation to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. an america worthy of his sacrifice. the internment of japanese americans is yet another example that when we do not stand up against unconstitutional actions like president trump's muslim ban, we will be complicit in what follows. i hope that our republican
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colleagues will join us on the right side of history. and i commend my republican colleagues, senators graham, mccain, hatch, flake, sasse, for their statements. i particularly want to note the joint statement made by senator lindsey graham and john mccain, because i very much admire the position that they took. their joint statement said, quote, our government has a responsibility to defend our borders but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and oppose all that is decent and exceptional about our nation. it is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that president trump's executive order was not properly vetted. we are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the department of state, defense, justice, and homeland security. such a hasty process risks
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harmful results. we should not stop green cardholders from returning to the country they call home. we should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risk their lives to help. and we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrative threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable hourers, most of them women and children. ultimately we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism, at this very moment american troops are fighting side by side with our iraqi partners to defeat isil. this executive order bans iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in arizona, to fight our common enemies. our most important allies in the fight against isil are the vast majority of muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. this executive order sends a signal intended or not that
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america does not want muslims coming into our country. that is why we fear this executive order may do more to help than improve our security. that is the end of the joint statement made by our colleagues. >> mr. chairman, can i -- >> president trump has described -- >> may i ask how long -- >> i'm coming to the end. >> i think we got everything worked out. >> oh, good. >> president -- may i proceed? president trump has described the motivation of his recent orders, temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies and at this point i strongly urge the new administration to move quickly to rescind his executive order, and i join my colleagues, my democratic colleagues, whose statements are already on the record in opposing jeff sessions
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for attorney general. i yield the floor. >> -- then we'll go to whitehouse and it looks like we're going to do -- i think we have an agreement that senator franken will speak tomorrow and then we'll vote when senator franken is done speaking. i would like to -- if we could do a time certain tomorrow for you to speak and have a vote i'd appreciate that very much if you would communicate to us, not right now, think about it. senator cruz. >> i was agreeing to the concept. >> okay. >> thank you, mr. chairman. as we prepare to confirm a new attorney general, i would like to speak about keeping this country safe and the rule of law. and i'd like to speak about three issues in particular. number one, the threat the country faces is real. and it is a threat from radical islamic terrorism. it is a threat unfortunately that the prior administration
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engaged in willful blindness, for eight long years. indeed, the oversight subcommittee of this committee conducted hearing where we heard from a whistle-blower at the department of homeland security that described how the previous administration scrubbed the records at dhs to remove any reference to muslim brotherhood, to radical islam, to alter and delete roughly 800 records to be blind to the threat we face. and indeed this threat is real, i would note a letter that i joined with jeff sessions in 2015 and again in 2016 and again in another in 2016, pointed out that our investigation identified at least 40 individuals who since september 11th were admitted to this country as refugees who were subsequently convicted of or implicated in terrorism.
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this is a real problem and it is an ongoing problem. i would note in france, reading from the washington post in april of 2016, quote, on a crisp morning last october 198 migrants arrived on the greek island of laros, hiding among them were four men with a different agenda. the four were posing as war weary syrians. and the washington post goes on to note that those refugees who came in went on to carry out the, quote, worst attack on french soil since world war ii. as for vetting, james comey, the director of the fbi, who i would note was appointed to that position by president barack obama, told the united states house of representatives that vetting was ineffective in the syrian war zone. we can only query against that which we have collected.
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if someone never made a ripple in the pond in syria, in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but we are not going to, there will be nothing to show up because we have no record. given that the fbi has told us they cannot vet refugees coming from war zones where there is a serious and persistent problem with radical islamic terrorism, the threat is real and for eight years we had an administration that was willfully blind to that threat. indeed, that was, i believe, one of the major issues in this past election is the american people wanting a president and an administration that would prioritize, protecting this country and keeping this country safe. second point i would make, there has been much focus on the president's executive order concerning refugees. i would note that the heart of that order is a common sense
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step that the vast majority of americans support. now, you wouldn't know this from the hysterics and fire we see on the media. but the heart of that order is a four-month pause in refugee programs until effective vetting can be implemented. and i would note that that follows quite similarly to legislation i introduced in this previous congress, legislation called tripa that would impose a moratorium on refugees coming from countries where isis or al qaeda control substantial territory. that is a basic common sense step. and indeed another component of it that has generated considerable consternation among our democratic colleagues is the fact that president trump's order reverses the eight-year pattern of discrimination against persecuted minorities and particularly christians in
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the middle east. the blindness of the obama administration to the plight of christians in the middle east is one of the great tragedies of the modern day, syrian population is roughly 10% christian. and yet fewer than 1% of the refugees admitted from syria are christian. that is all the more striking given that isis is engaging in systematic torture, persecution, oppression and genocide, targeted at middle east christians. and although you would never get it, watching the mainstream media, what this order did quite reasonably was focus on persecuted religious minorities and end the obama pattern of de facto segregation against middle eastern christians. but then we come to the actions of the last 24 hours, at the department of justice, and the actions of the acting attorney general sally yates. we have heard a number of democratic colleagues on this committee praise sally yates'
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actions as somehow admirable. i will say it is sad that sally yates' conduct in the last 24 hours is entirely consistent with eight years of a lawless obama department of justice. now, several have said at this hearing that an attorney general is obliged to be independent to stand up to a president who instructs him or her to disregard the law. that is absolutely correct. that is the obligation of the attorney general to follow the law. but this order had explicit statutory authorization indeed. the text of title 8 of the united states code, section 1182-f reads as follows, quote, whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or any class of aliens into the united states would be detrimental to the interests of the united states, he may by proclamation and for such period as he deems necessary suspend
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the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. that is explicit statutory authority. this executive order was promulgated pursuant to that explicit statutory authority. and when the attack -- acting attorney general and obama holdover instructed the department of justice to refuse to defend the president's order, it was an act of brazen partisan lawlessness. it was not based on law. it was based on a policy disagreement. miss yates apparently agrees with president obama and her predecessors at the department of justice that allowing unvetted refugees into this country who the fbi has told us they can not ascertain whether
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or not they're terrorists that that is a policy mandate and that the safety and security of americans is less important than that. that action was nothing short of lawlessness notice what once again i am always pleased to see my colleagues on either side of the aisle speaking up for rule of law. i'm curious where these sentiments calling for independent attorney general were in 2009 and he 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and 14 and 15 and 16. because for the life of me, i cannot recall a single instance in which eric holder or loretta lynch stood up to barack obama. on anything. time after time after time when the irs illegally and impermissibly targeted americans based on their political views, the attorney general refused to appoint a special counsel and instead assigned the case it a
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major democratic donor who had given over $6,000 to barack obama and the democratic party. that was lawless. it was brazen. it was partisan. repeatedly at this committee, i asked both eric holder and loretta lynch, would you appoint a special counsel who is not a major democratic donor to investigate the obama irs using powers of government to persecute those who disagree with the president. they both defiantly refused to do so. andnary a peep was heard from our democratic colleagues on this committee. an word of criticism was heard from that. i would note. i agree that the senate should stand up to any president disregarding a law and i have record of solicitor general of texas of standing up to george w. bush. a president of my own party, and indeed arguing before the united states supreme court that in order he entered in the case was
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contrary to the law and contrary to the constitution. i would inquire of this committee when the democratic members in the last eight years ever raised any issue with president obama's assertion of unlawful authority and the department of justice's complicit in it. and the department of justice has a long and bipartisan tradition on both republican and democratic sides of staying out of politics. i'm proud to be an alumni of the department as are many on this committee. and it is fitting that the end of the obama doj was sally yates defying a president, refusing to follow the law, and giving the president no other choice but to relief her of her duties. i commend president trump for firing sally yates last night when an attorney general decides that her partisan political
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commitments are more important than following the law. that acting attorney general gives the president no choice but to relief them of their duties. and i would encourage this committee to move expeditiously and jeff sessions, someone we all know and respect, and someone whole be faithful to the law, faithful to the constitution, not following a political agenda, as sadly has been the record of eric hold earn loretta lynch and sally yates. but instead being faithful to his oath. to defend the constitution and defend the rule of law. with that, i yield the floor. >> mr. chairman, my understanding is that we are going to owe conclude 6 minutes from now at 2:00 p.m. >> yes. >> there is a suggestion by the chairman that senator franken would give remarks tomorrow. given that only six minutes remain, i would be ask that i be
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included in tomorrow's schedule it speak prior to senator franken and then to move to there to the vote. >> by 20 minutes, you ask for? >> 20 minutes will more than suffice. >> senator franken, could i put you down for 22 minutes? >> you can put me down nor whatever -- >> longer than me -- >> i will -- >> listen, it may sound like a rhetorical question. but i would like to make sure that i can announce a certain time we're going to have a vote tomorrow. >> i will try. >> okay. >> so then approximately we will reconvene at -- we will reconvene at 10:30. have a vote about 11:12 then.
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and i would say that we still have five minutes before the two-hour rule. i've got two republicans that haven't spoken yet. if you would like to divide that six minutes, i should give you the courtesy. that's not much time, but if you want to speak, i would be happy to have you speak. how about senator kennedy? >> thank you, mr. chairman. can i do it in less than six minutes. an honorable american who happened to be president at the time with whose policies i disagree once said that elections have consequences. and he was right. the president of the united states is nominated people and whom he has confidence to be in his cabinet. one of whom is senator jeff sessions. president obama did not same thing.
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secretary of state hillary clinton would have done the same thing had she been elected. now you may not like the political positions of the president. you may not like the political possessions of the president's nominees. you may not like his nominees votes, you may not like who his nominee supported for president. you may not even like the region of the country. for which your nominees hail. and that's fair. this is america. you can believe what you want. that's what is great about our country. but i don't think any reasonable person can conclude that senator jeff sessions is not qualified
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if you define qualified as being capable of being a great attorney general. he has demonstrated that by his words as well as his deeds. in a former life, i used to be state treasurer. i wrote a lot of checks i didn't agree with. and i have no doubt that senator sessions, once he becomes attorney general, will enforce the law whether he agrees with it or not. i believe senator sessions has demonstrated that he respects the bill of rights and i think everybody at this table holds that document sacred as we should. i think senator sessions understands that purpose of the bill of rights -- let me put it this way. the high school quarterback and prom queen don't need the bill of rights. it's the unprotected. the people who choose to be different in america.
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that's why it is such a great document. and i think jeff sessions respects that. his experience, he has been a united states senator. i assume we give that some merit. he has been a state attorney general. and he has been the u.s. attorney and i notice during hearings that senator sessions, his body language changed. and his eyes lit up when he talked about what it is like to be a u.s. attorney. >> i have been here a short time but i have had a number of conversations he and i will tell what you impresses me the most, his humility. i places himself intentionally lower than the people. and it hasn't escaped my attention in the four weeks that i've been here that there are more than a few peeks around here that act like they are one of the founding fathers.
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jeff sessions is not one of them. i think he will be a great attorney general and he has my unqualified support. >> the committee will stand in recess until tomorrow morning at 10:30 with, i hope, that all republicans and democrats can be here around 11:10, 11:15. >> thank you all very much.
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chairman grassley announcing that the judiciary committee will recess until tomorrow back in tomorrow we expect at about 10: 30 eastern and the vote sometime before 11:00 eastern. we will bring you live coverage on the c-span networks. and we will take you


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