WASHINGTON ― The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, delivered a savage rebuke Tuesday of her longtime Republican colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
At the root of Feinstein’s argument is a fundamentally different view of the role of an attorney general than the one held by President Donald Trump. Feinstein, who is far from a fire-breathing liberal, notes that Trump has often referred to Sessions as “my attorney general.” An attorney general, argues Feinstein, reflecting centuries of precedent, must be independent of the president.
But Feinstein meticulously lays out the evidence to support the idea that Sessions would be subordinate to Trump, which undermines the rule of law.
That the hearing was being held on Tuesday at all was the result of Feinstein’s previous push that it be delayed to take into account the concerns of women who marched across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration.
Close to 10 minutes in, the California senator begins digging into Sessions’ record beyond his deep involvement with the recently announced temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, which is coupled with an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, even those already vetted and approved.
The review of his background then travels through his record on voter suppression, arriving at his view that Roe v. Wade, while the law of the land, is, in his mind, unconstitutional. “He clearly left open the possibility that he would enforce laws that would punish women” who have abortions, she added.
By the 15th minute, she has gotten into his support of indefinite detention and torture.
“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 that are in violation of the Constitution,” she said.
She finishes by quoting Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who stood up Monday night to Trump over the legality of the Muslim ban, and was fired for her candor. “That statement took a steel spine, to stand up and say no. It took the courage of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who stood up to President Nixon. That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do,” Feinstein concluded. “With this in mind, I must vote no.”
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