The Troubling Record of Jeff Sessions

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United States Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington D.C.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein,

I am concerned about the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General of the United States.

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s recent courageous letter to you about Senator Sessions’s troubling actions in the past has led me to share some thoughts with you.

It is clear to me, as I hope it is clear to you, that Senator Sessions has no business being considered for this high office, let alone attaining it.

I would like to take this opportunity to detail some of my concerns about Senator Sessions.

It is a matter of public record that while in a position of authority he authorized a federal law enforcement agency to have a gun dealer sell hundreds of high-powered assault weapons to drug dealers from a foreign country, where they ended up being used to kill scores of people in that country. One of them was used to kill an American federal agent in our own country.

Then, when the United States Congress ordered him to testify about his actions, he refused to do so, earning a citation for contempt. It’s the first time anyone sitting in that office has been cited for civil and criminal contempt of Congress.

It is also well known that while in high office he refused to prosecute certain people who intimidated voters with a weapon outside a polling place just because he happened to sympathize with their politics and their race.

At another time, when a powerful agency denied or delayed granting tax-exempt status to dozens of nonprofit advocacy groups just because its officials disagreed with their political opinions, he refused to prosecute anyone for the obviously illegal activities. This decision created a chilling effect for political dissent in this country and set a new standard for political partisanship.

At another time, he used his high office to hound a group of nuns who work with the poor to try to get them to violate their religious beliefs in order to further a political goal of his immediate superior. Even when he lost in court, he continued to harass them.

At another time, in the midst of a presidential campaign, while investigators under his authority were looking into the obviously criminal actions of one of the candidates, he met secretly with the husband of the candidate in an airplane on a tarmac and spoke with him for a half-hour. Later, when provided evidence that the meeting had occurred, he released a statement claiming they spent the time talking about their grandchildren. Not long after that, he allowed a lesser-ranking official under him to announce that the candidate would not be prosecuted, even though that official didn’t have the authority to make such a decision.

These activities are painful to recount and disqualifying for any high office, let alone the officer charged with enforcing federal laws and the federal Constitution. They also suggest that Senator Sessions is not up to the high standards of fairness, integrity, and temperament that have been established for Attorney General of the United States.

But let me add a personal note as to why this nomination of Senator Sessions is particularly inappropriate at this moment.

This is a time for healing, which the country so sorely needs. In the recent election, for instance, aides of a candidate for president of the United States authorized thugs to attend rallies for that candidate’s opponent and incite violence, in an attempt to blame the other candidate for inciting violence.

This is the sort of atmosphere we are entering as a new president prepares to take office.

We need an Attorney General who can speak to ways to bring us all together behind universal principles and not try to divide us along race, class, religious beliefs, or political opinions.

I am sorry that I cannot attend the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Senator Sessions so that I can be fully questioned about the details and provide information tending to rebut any objections you might have to my characterizations of the events described above in this, my own courageous letter.

I have a longstanding overseas trip planned which cannot be altered in any way. It would be impossible for me to find an airline flight from the place where I am going to Washington D.C. and then back again. Even if I could find such a flight I would be unable to afford it due to my current low-paying position with Bain Capital.

But I urge the committee to accept the assertions in this letter without further consideration and make a decision that will make all Americans feel secure that their opportunities for justice and fair play are respected.