Jeff Sessions took a surprise trip to South Carolina this week at the behest of the Senate’s only black Republican. His allies talk up how Sessions locked arms with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama
. And the senator, in a lengthy nominee questionnaire delivered this month, practically depicts himself as a civil rights hero.
When the Senate takes up President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be the nation’s next top law enforcement official in January, allegations of Racism
that have dogged Sessions for three decades running are certain to be his biggest liability. So he and his allies have mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to refashion Sessions’ image.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
The core message: The charges that sank Sessions’ bid to become a federal judge in 1986 don’t represent who Sessions is now, or even who he was at the time. Delivering it is a lineup of prominent black leaders and others with personal ties to Sessions enlisted by Trump’s transition team.
“He knows all of my brothers and sisters,” said one of the character witnesses, William Huntley
, who worked under Sessions in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Huntley, now a lawyer in Mobile, Ala., said in an interview that he’s never encountered racial insensitivity from Sessions in the three decades they’ve known each other.
“He came to the hospital when my first child was born,” Huntley said. “He has come to birthday parties at my house.”
Liberal outside groups are unmoved. Alarmed by what they view as a weak legislative record on voting issues, gay rights and immigration policy, Sessions’ opponents are trying to litigate a broader case against him rather than focus solely on the racism questions…
Sessions, who appeared with Trump at a rally in Alabama on Saturday, has forcefully denied accusations of racism ever since they prompted the GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee to reject him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. During the lengthy testimony, senators heard from a former black deputy to Sessions that Sessions once told him to “be careful what you say to white folks” and that Sessions [joked] he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan until he found out its members used marijuana…