As the nation marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score. While Sessions’ confirmation seems almost inevitable after a polished performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the nominee’s encouraging promises cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job. At times in the recent past, Sessions’ initial instincts have been the opposite of what one would seek in the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Asked in October about Trump’s remarks that he could grab women by their genitals, Sessions said it would be “a stretch” to “characterize that as sexual assault.” In 2015, he decried the Supreme Court ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry, while two years earlier he celebrated the Supreme Court ruling obliterating the central enforcement tool in the Voting Rights Act.
At the hearing, Sessions proclaimed he would uphold laws, even ones with which he disagrees. And he reversed himself on his earlier sexual assault comments. But it is not enough for an attorney general to be a sometimes skeptical upholder of the law. The attorney general must be a champion of the rights of Americans, particularly those who — because of religion, race, gender or ethnicity — may find themselves under attack.
… Attorneys general are at critical times called upon to rein in the president who nominated them when that president veers from the law. Sessions vowed to do so when necessary, but it’s worth asking when Sessions might think it necessary. He was one of Trump’s earliest supporters while Trump was sanctioning torture and vowing to ban Muslim immigrants. Sessions testified he opposes a ban on Muslim immigration based solely on religion, but not enough to have backed away from Trump when it might have mattered during the campaign.
Full Article: Jeff Sessions and Martin Luther King: Our view.