A Democratic lawmaker stands behind his comments that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III wants to “Make America Great Again” by sending the nation decades back to when people didn’t have basic civil rights.
“Sessions, he’d just love for Black people to be in the back of the bus again. He’d love for women to be in the kitchen. He’d love for gay people to be in the closet again, and for me, not to have a microphone to be able to speak to anyone,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Wednesday at the We the People Summit.
Symbolically, Sessions has already put these people back in their “place,” so to speak. His Justice Department has zero Black staff members. He has attacked women’s rights, has come after people with disabilities, targets immigrants regularly and does not support LGBTQ rights.
And Gutierrez has no apologies for what he said.
“This is a man that when he came before the Senate to try to become a federal judge, Coretta Scott King came forward,” he said on CNN on Wednesday. “There were all kinds of testimonies about him calling Black men ‘boys.’ This is a man who is trying to strip Black people, as a U.S. senator, from their voting rights, and diminish their voting rights. This is a man who works for Donald Trump.”
“And when it comes to the Violence Against Women Act He voted against it!”
Gutierrez also cited Sessions’ support for Trump’s ban on transgender people joining the military.
Sessions’ history (including his recent history) speaks for itself. Gutierrez also pointed out that one seemingly positive thing on Sessions’ record doesn’t change that.
“Sometimes people do one good thing, but that’s not really their record or their history of who they are. Look at who Jeff Sessions is today,” he said.
Gutierrez was talking about Sessions’ involvement in the prosecution and ultimate execution of a Ku Klux Klan member who lynched a Black man in Alabama in the ’80s.
His assessment is only partially right, though. Even this one apparent outlier for Sessions is not quite what it seems.
Michael Donald, 19, was targeted and lynched in Alabama for no reason other than being Black. During the time of the case, Sessions was the district’s U.S. attorney.
Barry Kowalski, who served as a civil rights division attorney and was one of the main attorneys involved in the Donald case, said Sessions “cooperated with us completely,” even though cooperation with civil rights divisions was uncommon at that time, The Atlantic reported.
Thomas Harrison, the assistant district attorney at the time, reportedly backed up Kowalski’s assessment and said Sessions was very helpful.
But not everyone quite remembered it that way.
Thomas Figures, who served as assistant U.S. attorney (and was the man who said Sessions referred to as “boy”), testified that Sessions helped out after the fact but was not too concerned about solving the case when it was difficult.
The Atlantic reported:
In 1986, Figures testified before the Senate that while it was “literally true” that Sessions had not “obstructed the investigation of the murder of Michael Donald,” Sessions had “tried to persuade me to discontinue pursuit of the case.” Figures said that Sessions “remarked, with regard to the investigation, that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” Figures told the Senate that after the case went to the grand jury, and it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case, Mr. Sessions attitude changed” and that he supported the prosecution.
If it is true that Sessions only wanted to pursue the case when it was solvable, his cooperation does not speak to concern for civil rights. So even Sessions’ “one good thing” is hardly even that.