Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions testified for nearly 11 hours on Tuesday, wrapping up his first day in the confirmation process toward becoming the next Attorney General of the United States.
Taking rounds of questioning from his fellow senators, many of whom with which he served on the Judiciary Committee, Sessions touched on a number of topics including race, religious liberty and constitutional powers.
The Alabama Republican began the hearing by informing Committee Chairman and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley that he would recuse himself from any potential investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, because:
“I, like a lot of people, made comments the issues in that campaign with regard to Secretary Clinton and some of the comments I made. I do believe that that could place my objectivity in question.”
He also rejected the possibility of a ban on individuals of the Muslim faith from entering the United States, which Trump advocated for during the presidential campaign. Sessions did, however, voice support for a way to curb radicalized Muslims from coming to the U.S.
Sessions, 70, touched on drug issues as well. He called the lack of enforcement of federal marijuana laws “a problem of resources for the federal government” and suggested that if opinions on pot laws have changed, it should be done so at the federal level:
“One obvious concern is that Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state an illegal act. If that is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change it. It’s not the attorney general’s job to decide which laws to enforce. We should enforce the laws as effectively as we are able.”
Sessions addressed racial issues by saying that America “can never go back” to the way it was when he grew up in Alabama decades ago.
When pressed on his 1986 rejection by the Senate to serve as a federal judge, Sessions claimed he was unfairly characterized and that he “did not harbor the animosities” of which he had been accused, adding:
“I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters.”
Throughout most of the marathon hearing, Sessions braved protesters, many of whom were operating on behalf of the liberal group “Code Pink.” At one point, a group of protesters donning mock Ku Klux Klan uniforms chanted that Sessions was a racist. Others shouted their disagreements with Sessions' immigration positions and their criticisms of President-elect Donald Trump.
Sessions answered questions all day long, which he repeatedly emphasized were part of his desire to serve the U.S. and commitment to the law.
“I have always loved the law,” Sessions said in his opening remarks. “It is the very foundation of our great country. I have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing just that. If confirmed, I will give all my efforts to this goal.”