Yesterday Donald Trump sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she refused to defend his presidential order on refugee and immigration in court.
Today Jeff Sessions is facing the Senate and faces a vote on whether he can become the new Attorney General. This is likely to be contentious, with allegations that Sessions has been closely involved in aspects of Trump’s presidency.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to vote Tuesday on the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, just hours after President Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she refused to defend his controversial refugee ban in court.
Sessions, who has helped shape the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration stance, is expected to pass on a strict party-line vote, though it was unclear whether Monday’s events, which cast the interim leadership at the Justice Department into turmoil, would alter the committee’s action.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opened Tuesday’s meeting, asserting that Sessions played no role in the president’s controversial executive actions.
“Some on the other side have raised concerns about whether Sen. Sessions was involved in drafting or reviewing the executive orders,” Grassley said. “It’s not clear to me why it would be a problem even if he had been involved. But the fact of the matter is he wasn’t. In his written responses to Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sessions stated for the record ‘neither I, nor any of my current staff’ had a role in formulating or drafting the executive orders.
“Sen. Sessions has assured us that he will enforce the laws fully, fairly, and independently,” Grassley said. “These answers, combined with his life of public service and his experience working with each of us, assure me that Senator Sessions will make an outstanding Attorney General.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s ranking Democrat, answered Grassley with a repudiation of Sessions’ nomination, suggesting that the nominee would act as “an arm of the White House” and would carry out the president’s ”destructive policies.”
She cited Yates’ firing, saying that the acting attorney general demonstrated the “guts” necessary for the job by refusing to defend Trump’s order.
“I have no confidence Sen. Sessions will do that,” Feinstein said.
There are doubts that Sessions can be independent enough of Trump.
In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government.
The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.
The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action — and Sessions, the quiet Alabamian who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.
Sessions’s ideology is driven by a visceral aversion to what he calls “soulless globalism,” a term used on the extreme right to convey a perceived threat to the United States from free trade, international alliances and the immigration of nonwhites.
And despite many reservations among Republicans about that worldview, Sessions is finding little resistance in Congress to his proposed role as Trump’s attorney general.
It looks like the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will ensure Sessions becomes their next Attorney General.
From immigration and health care to national security and trade, Sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president’s policies. His reach extends throughout the White House, with his aides and allies accelerating the president’s most dramatic moves, including the ban on refugees and citizens from seven mostly Muslim nations that has triggered fear around the globe.
The author of many of Trump’s executive orders is senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a Sessions confidant who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government’s implementation of the refugee ban.
The tactician turning Trump’s agenda into law is deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, Sessions’s longtime chief of staff in the Senate.
The mastermind behind Trump’s incendiary brand of populism is chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who, as chairman of the Breitbart website, promoted Sessions for years.
Interesting times in the US.