The Senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, began Tuesday with guys in mock KKK robes sardonically showing up to “support” him. They were promptly thrown out and then detained by police, as one of them shouted, “You can’t arrest me, I’m a white man!”
Sessions served as the the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama from 1981 to 1993; later, he was famously not confirmed for a job as a federal judge after former colleagues and subordinates testified that he’d made racist remarks. He’s tried to counter allegations of racism by pointing out that he helped prosecute KKK members who lynched a 19-year-old black man named Michael Donald in 1981. But as the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer outlined in a recent feature, Sessions and his supports have really overstated his role in that prosecution. In fact, the only black U.S. Attorney at the time, Michael Figures, doggedly pursued the case even as Sessions suggested he maybe drop it:
In 1986, Figures testified before the Senate that while it was “literally true” that Sessions had not “obstructed the investigation of the murder of Michael Donald,” Sessions had “tried to persuade me to discontinue pursuit of the case.” Figures said that Sessions “remarked, with regard to the investigation, that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” Figures told the Senate that after the case went to the grand jury, and it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case, Mr. Sessions attitude changed” and that he supported the prosecution.
There will definitely be more protests against Sessions throughout this hearing, and he will, nonetheless, definitely be confirmed.