On Wednesday, Alabama Senator and certified civil rights nightmare Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was confirmed as Donald Trump’s Attorney General, with a near-party-line vote of 52 to 47. Sessions’ nomination represents a near-180-degree flip in the values and priorities of the Justice Department.
But what can the Justice Department, and, specifically, the Attorney General’s office, actually do, other than launch investigations into things? Can it rip the IUD from out of me? (The royal me—I don’t have an IUD because I’m scared of pain.) Can it allow a cake store to refuse to sell me a cake because of my sexual preference (and, can it legally tell the cake store my sexual preference)? Is the Attorney General a policy maker, a policy enforcer, or the President’s legal muscle? In short: How worried should we be?
On this week’s episode of Big Time Dicks, Prachi Gupta and I focus on Sessions’ work as Alabama Attorney General and, later, Senator—and, just a note, it’s really alarming to hear a racist life’s work all in one place. We also turn to Columbia Law School professor and chair of the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights Katherine Franke to answer our questions about what power the Attorney General’s office actually has, what tools the Justice Department has to enact its agenda, and whether there’s any way to resist the legal restrictions that will surely come.
Franke feels that the state of the judicial system in the US could become dire pretty quickly—for one, Sessions’ and Donald Trump’s desire to flout settled legal rulings that they disagree with (regarding voting rights and LGBT rights, for example).
“If the chief legal officer for the United States and the president of the United States refuse to respect the properly-issued rulings from the federal court,” Franke says, “what we have is a constitutional crisis of an enormous magnitude, and we should all be very worried about this.”