For a large part Trump has been giving jobs and boosting the careers of old friends with no political experience. Some of his appointees do have greater political clout. They are not, however, better people.
Now confirmed as the new Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions has a long career opposing civil rights and supporting extreme protectionism. Ostensibly now in charge of civil rights, Sessions was first in the national news in 1985 when he prosecuted three black civil rights workers in Alabama for “voter fraud.” The charges relating to the use of absentee ballots were only brought against black activists and not a single conviction was made. That hasn’t stopped Sessions from continuing to defend the prosecution.
A source in the New York Times said was this “conviction” was why Trump’s people believed he is the right man for the job. It was just a year after the Alabama case when Sessions was blocked from becoming a federal judge because of racist remarks. He is one of only two people in the last 50 years to have his appointment blocked. Sessions has denied the allegations of racism from Thomas Figures, a former black US assistant attorney who said Session addressed him as “boy” and told to be careful what he said to “white folks”.
Sessions is on record as believing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is “un-American” and “communist inspired”. Why? Because for Sessions they “try to force civil rights down the throats of people”. While the police were investigating the murder of Michael Donald, a black man, it was revealed he had been kidnapped, killed and strung up from a tree by two members of the Ku Klux Klan. Sessions’ only remark was that he thought the Klan were okay until he found out they used marijuana.
At Sessions’ confirmation hearing Senator Elizabeth Warren was stopped from reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, the civil rights activist, opposing his nomination as a federal judge in Alabama. The letter most pointedly says, “The irony of Mr Sessions’ nomination, is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished 20 years ago, with clubs and cattle prods.” Session believes the law constrains the police’s ability to do their job. He has opposed federal investigations and enforcement of consent decrees which compel allegations of corruption and violence in police departments to be investigated and changed.
While investigations have been largely ineffective, opposing them and describing them as “one of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power” shows Sessions has no interest in civil rights, particularly when the people involved are not white. Sessions has always been an outlier in the Senate, always on the extreme protectionist right of the Republicans. He co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing against the US free trade deals including NAFTA and CETA.
In 2015, he voted against the majority of the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee over a policy that the Senate would not create legislation that discriminated on the basis of religion. His speech against was to stop an amendment enshrining “so-called immigrant’s rights.” He was one of the few champions of Trump’s campaign for the “Muslim ban” and has been pushing the administration to act swiftly and decisively on many of Trump’s pledges, to shore up the Trump base. With Sessions as the country’s top prosecutor, attempts to investigate Trump’s business deals and corruption will be vastly curtailed.
Protest against Trump, 20 February
Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned on 13 February, facing charges of unauthorised freelance dealings with the Putin regime in Russia. As we go to press, signals suggest that the Trump administration may not appeal to the Supreme Court against judges’ striking-down of its “Muslim ban”. Trump talks of issuing a new “executive order” to target migrants and travellers.
A protest against Trump, and against Theresa May’s fawning invitation to him for a state visit, is set for 20 February: 6 p.m. at Parliament Square, London.