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Booker Slams Sessions: No 'Will' to Continue Fight for Justice

Image: Booker Slams Sessions: No 'Will' to Continue Fight for Justice

Sen. Cory Booker (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Jan 2017 04:51 PM

Sen. Cory Booker took the unprecedented step Wednesday of opposing the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, arguing that the Alabama Republican's record proved that he was unwilling "to continue the hallowed tradition of our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice, for civil rights."

"The arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice, we must bend it," the New Jersey Democrat told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "America needs an attorney general who is resolute and determined to bend the arc.

"Sen. Sessions' record does not speak to that desire, intention, or will."

Rarely does a sitting senator testify against a colleague nominated to a Cabinet position. Booker, 47, was first elected in 2012.

Sessions, 70, who began his Senate career in 1997, was nominated last month by President-elect Donald Trump.

He testified before the committee on Tuesday. The committee concluding his hearings on Wednesday.

Booker and three top civil-rights leaders warned that Sessions could move the country backward if confirmed as Trump's top law enforcement official.

The others testifying against the senator were Democrats Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was beaten when he marched for civil rights in the 1960s; Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Cornell William Brooks, president of the NAACP.

In addition, the NAACP on Tuesday released a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who died in 2006, in which she said that Sessions' actions as a federal prosecutor were "reprehensible" and that he used his office "in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters."

That year, the Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions for a federal judgeship amid accusations that he had called an African-American attorney "boy" — which he denied — and that the NAACP and ACLU labeled him as "un-American."

Sessions called those accusations "damnably false" in his Tuesday testimony and said that he is "totally committed to maintaining the freedom and equality that this country has to provide to every citizen."

Booker acknowledged Wednesday that he and Sessions worked together in 2015 on legislation honoring those leading the 1965 march in Selma, including Lewis — and that they have "consistently disagreed on the issues, but he and I have had a mutual respect between us."

However, the Democrat said that he was testifying against the nomination because "the march for justice in our country still continues.

"I want an attorney general who is committed to supporting law enforcement and securing law and order, but that is not enough," Booker told senators. "America was founded not on law and order but justice for all.

"Critical to that is equal justice under the law. Law and order without justice is unobtainable. They are inextricably tied together."

He also noted that "Sen. Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requisite of the job: to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights, and justice for all of our citizens.

"In fact, numerous times in his career, he has demonstrated the hostility toward these convictions and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals.

"The next attorney general must bring hope and healing to this country — and this demands a more courageous empathy than Sen. Sessions record demonstrates," Booker added.

"It demands an understanding that patriotism is love of country — and love of country demands that we love all of our citizens, even the most marginalized, the most disadvantaged, the most degraded, and the most unfortunate."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Cory Booker took the unprecedented step Wednesday of opposing the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, arguing that the Alabama Republican's record proved that he was unwilling "to continue the hallowed tradition of our country of fighting for justice...
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Wednesday, 11 Jan 2017 04:51 PM
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