Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s poor relationship with the Black community was brought to the forefront during questioning at a House Judiciary Committee meeting.
“I do not have a senior staff member at this time that’s an African American,” Sessions told Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.
Richmond, who is the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), also asked Sessions about diversity on the bench.
“In terms of nominating judges to the bench, our information tells us that of all the judges that have been nominated, I think 91 percent have been white males. Does that foster diversity” he questioned.
Sessions said he was “not aware of the numbers” but said the goal is to “look for quality candidates.”
“I think diversity is a matter that has significance,” he said.
“Of all of the U.S. attorneys that have been nominated or confirmed, how many have been African American” Richmond asked.
“One in Alabama, that I recommended, that I knew,” Sessions responded.
“And I believe it’s only that one,” Richmond said. “Out of all of the special agents in charge of FBI bureaus around the country, how many are African American”
“I do not know,” Sessions answered.
Richmond explained his line of questioning.
“For a lot of people who objectively look from the back like I do and many people where I live, the question is whether we are going towards inclusion and diversity or going back,” he said.
With Sessions heading the Justice Department, the answer may be going back, as he also demonstrated a lack of knowledge when questioned about race relations in regard to the FBI.
An FBI report was released in August titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” The report cites the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the subsequent decision not to indict the officer who killed him as evidence that “Black Identity Extremists” (BIEs) are likely to target law enforcement.
Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, questioned Sessions about the report, who claimed to not have seen it or have any knowledge of it.
“I’m not sure how that report got ordered,” he said. “I don’t believe I explicitly approved or directed it.”
The FBI report states: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.”
Bass, also a member of the CBC, asked Sessions if he could define “Black Identity Extremists.”
“Do you believe that there is a movement of African Americans that identify themselves as Black Identity Extremists, and what does that movement do” she asked.
“It’d be interesting to see the conclusions of that report. But I am aware that there are groups that do have an extraordinary commitment to their racial identity, and some have transformed themselves even into violent activists.”
Bass pressed Sessions further, asking if the FBI has compiled a report analyzing concerns over white extremist groups. She cited neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the sovereign citizens movement, which has been linked to several murders of law enforcement officials (including the 2016 massacre in Baton Rouge that left six officers dead).
“Are you aware of white organizations that do this as well” she asked, adding, “Are they white identity extremists”
“I didn’t follow that question.”
“Is there a term or a report on white identity extremists”
“Yes but it’s not coming to me at this moment,” Sessions answered.
President Donald Trump and his administration have refused to denounce white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK.
Sessions said he believed there have been “four police officers killed by a group that some have described as extremist” over the last year.
“What has happened is that there have been a couple of instances in which African Americans did kill police officers [but] who were not associated with a Black organization,” Bass said. “And so one, for example, in Baton Rouge, was associated with sovereign citizens, which is primarily a white group.”
“By the way, would you consider Black Lives Matter a Black Identity Extremist group” Bass asked.
“I’m not able to comment on that. I have not so declared it,” was Sessions’ response.
Sessions has long been classified as an opponent of civil rights.
In 1986, Sessions was rejected to be a district judge in Alabama. He was the second judge to be rejected in 48 years and his inflammatory racist comments and remarks were what cost him the position.
Sessions referred to a white civil rights lawyer as a “disgrace to his race” for taking on voting rights cases. He also called the Voting Rights Act (VRA) a “piece of intrusive legislation.”
Further, Sessions referred to civil rights groups the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP as “un-American.” He also once said he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) “were okay until I found out they smoked pot.” Additionally, Thomas H. Figures, an African American who was a federal prosecutor at the time, said Sessions once called him “boy.”
More recently Sessions has aligned himself as anti-immigration and against criminal justice reform. Last August he released a statement slamming Obama’s decision to commute 214 prison sentences, accusing the president of “abus[ing] executive power in an unprecedented, reckless manner.” (Meanwhile, Trump’s administration has made the opioid crisis which disproportionately impacts whites a priority, calling it “a national health emergency.” In 2015, 82 percent of the people who died from opioid overdoses were white.)
Regarding extremist groups, Gavin Long, the shooter in the Baton Rouge tragedy who had ties to the sovereign citizens movement, was Black. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate and extremist groups, some members of the sovereign citizens movement are Black but the organization’s heritage is rooted in racism:
“The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, are unaware of their beliefs’ origins. In the early 1980s, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups that saw Jews as working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government. Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans and everyone else born on U.S. soil, also made black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves.”