Marking one year since Jeff Sessions became U.S. Attorney General, Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a floor speech on Wednesday verbally eviscerating Sessions’ record on voting rights, civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration. In the speech, Sen. Warren openly refers to Sessions as a “racist” and his policies as “bigotry.”
“One year ago today, I came to the Senate floor to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice,” Warren said in a floor speech on Wednesday. “The Justice Department is charged with defending our laws and standing up for all people, regardless of color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. That night, I described Jeff Sessions’ appalling record on nearly every major national issue handled by the Justice Department – including civil rights, immigration, and criminal justice reform.
“That night, I also read a letter that Coretta Scott King sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 opposing Sessions’ nomination to serve as a federal judge. Mrs. King wrote a vivid account of how Jeff Sessions, as a U.S. Attorney in the 1980s, had ‘used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.’ That letter had been a part of the Senate Judiciary Committee records for more than 30 years. It helped sink the nomination of Jeff Sessions for the federal judgeship for which he had been nominated back in the 1980s. And I hope that by reminding the Senate of its bipartisan rejection of Sessions in the 1980s, that letter might help us to once again come together in a bipartisan way to say that this kind of bigotry shouldn’t be allowed anywhere in our criminal justice system.
“That was my plan. But for reading those words – the words of an icon of the civil rights movement – I was booted off of the Senate floor. Every one of my Republican colleagues present that night voted to shut me up for reading Mrs. King’s words. And the next day, every single Republican voted to confirm Jeff Sessions – a man deemed too racist to hold a federal court judgeship in 1986 – nope, they confirmed him to lead the agency charged with defending justice for all Americans.”
Besides allowing the Justice Department to abandon its legal challenge against a Texas voter ID law that intentionally discriminated against voters of color, Sessions openly supported President Trump’s false conspiracy theory that millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton. Warren also accused Sessions’ Justice Department of failing to adequately protect Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Jeff Sessions is using the monumental power of his office to invert our criminal justice system,” Warren continued. “For too long in America, we’ve had a dual justice system-one sympathetic, soft-on-crime system for the rich and the powerful and another ineffective, cruel system for everyone else. Coretta Scott King told us about Sessions’ role in this broken system when she wrote that he ‘exhibited an eagerness to bring to trial and convict’ black civil rights leaders ‘despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing.’ Meanwhile, he ‘ignored allegations of similar behavior by whites.’”
Warren pointed out that Sessions effectively closed an office within the Justice Department last week that helped make legal aid more accessible to people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Sessions has also zealously defended Trump’s Muslim ban and the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA program.
“Jeff Sessions, President Trump, and this Republican Congress seem to think they can stoke the fires of hatred and division without being consumed by them,” Warren concluded. “And maybe they can, for a time. But people are resisting and persisting. States and cities are stepping up to defend civil rights under assault by the federal government. The American people are showing up – in the streets, in the airports, in the courtrooms, and even at the polls to hold this government accountable. And they will continue to show up – and to fight, day in and day out, to fight for fairness, for equality, for liberty and justice for all.
“Republicans tried to silence Coretta Scott King for speaking the truth about Jeff Sessions. They tried to silence me for reading Mrs. King’s words on the Senate floor. They’ve tried to silence all of us from speaking out. But instead of shutting us up, they’ve made us louder.”