For the first time in American history, a sitting senator testified against a presidential Cabinet nominee. Today, Sen. Cory Booker(D-NJ) testified against President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions. Booker said, "The next attorney general must bring hope and healing to this country, and this demands a more courageous empathy than Senator Sessions' record demonstrates." Speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Booker said that challenges related to racism cannot resolved if not confronted. "If one is to be attorney general, they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice for civil rights."
Booker called on his colleagues to oppose the confirmation of Session as attorney general.
Also testifying against Session was Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). On the second day of testimony, Lewis said, "Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Sen. Sessions' call for law and order would mean today what it meant for Alabama when I was coming up back then." Lewis said that there are elements in society that want to violate the rights of the poor and minorities. Making a personal attack, Lewis said of the Alabama senator: “It doesn't matter how Sen. Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you, but we need someone who's going to stand up and speak up and speak out for the people that need help, for people that have been discriminated against."
In the audience was Rep. Maxine Walters (D-CA), who is a member of the Black Caucus.
Booker said yesterday on MSNBC's "All In" that “extraordinary times... call for extraordinary measures." The New Jersey lawmaker said Sessions has a history of "consistently voting against or speaking out against key ideals of the Voting Rights Act, taking measures to try to block justice reform" as reasons for his testimony.”
For his part, former U.S. Marshal Jesse Seroyer said he respects Sessions, who once served as Alabama’s attorney general. "He's a good and decent man. He believes in law and order for all the people."
Coming out in support of Sessions were the heads of four leading law enforcement associations, as well as a group of black Christian pastors. Bishop Harry Jackson said at a Capitol Hill news conference yesterday, “There is an attempt by some to demonize people and call them racist when there is actually no proof for it,. Jackson added, “Let me say clearly, Sen. Sessions is not a racist.” Jackson leads the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. He said, that Sessions “worked to bankrupt the KKK in Alabama with a $7 million judgment,” and helped to desegregate the public schools.
There were several times that Sessions was interrupted by raucous protesters in the Senate chamber. Some shouted, “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” They were escorted from the room.
Booker is considered a rising personality in the Democratic caucus of the Senate and a possible 2020 presidential candidate.Swarmed by cameras and reporters today, Booker used rhetoric that called to mind President Barack Obama's lofty words. “In a choice between standing with Senate norms and standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country,” the junior Democratic senator said. “The arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve towards justice. We must bend it,” Booker said. He was backed up by members of the Black Caucus, all of whom are Democrats.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) deplored the prospect of Booker's testimony as a “disgraceful breach of custom.” The statement read, “I’m very disappointed that Senator Booker has chosen to start his 2020 presidential campaign by testifying against Senator Sessions. … This hearing simply offers a platform for his presidential aspirations.”