In his opening testimony given before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, conservative Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions promised to ensure law and order as the leader of the Justice Department.
Sessions addressed concerns surrounding his political objectivity, noting that an attorney general "must be willing to tell the president 'no' if he overreaches" and that he would resign if requested to undertake something illegal or unconstitutional. He also promised to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling from 1973, though he simultaneously expressed opposition to the ruling.
No to a Muslim ban
Sessions later stated he does not support a ban on Muslims entering the United States, a policy proposal that played a prominent role during Trump's presidential campaign.
At the same time, Sessions said that both he and Trump believe that individuals can be prevented from entering the United States, should they come from countries known to harbor terrorists. He also promised to tackle illegal immigration and advocated keeping Guantanamo Bay open.
In a new twist to the Hillary Clinton email saga that doggedly affected the democratic candidate's campaign, Sessions promised to recuse himself from any investigations related to the issue and to instead appoint a special prosecutor. This decision is due to comments the senator made pertaining to the situation, he told the Senate Committee.
Sessions' statements come after two men dressed as Ku Klux Klan members interrupted the Senate confirmation hearings shortly after they began on Tuesday morning in Washington, DC.
The protesters yelled, "you can't arrest me, I am white!" and "white people own this government!" while being removed by security.
Security later removed a second protester who screamed, "his record is evil!" while moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine gave her opening remarks. The protester, who was wearing a pink crown, was part of the human rights group Code Pink.
Though Sessions has been critized for his record on civil rights, in preleased testimony he expressed that he comprehends "the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it."
In 1986, accusations of racially insensitive statements led the Senate to block Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship. Over the past week, NAACP protestors staged a sit-in in Sessions' Mobile, Alabama office while over 1,000 law professors signed a letter urging Congress not to proceed with the attorney general nomination.
cb/rt (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)