The Administration

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Sessions should be disqualified for attorney general post

Almost everyone has filled out an application for a job. The process is straightforward. Read the application questions and fill in the answers fully and truthfully. In most cases, the application asks why you are qualified for the job and what skills and experience make you the right person. 

If your skills and experience match the job qualifications, you are a strong candidate for that job. If those skills don’t align, or if you lie about your qualifications, or leave out important information about yourself, you won’t get the job. It’s simple.

Sen. Jeff Sessions’s (R-Ala.) application for the job of United States attorney general has not been quite so simple, however. When filling out his application for the job, in this case a questionnaire required by the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration for the post, Sessions did not fill out his application fully or truthfully.

{mosads}In the questionnaire Sessions submitted to the Senate Judiciary committee on Dec. 9, he omitted information on hundreds of communications, from speeches to interviews to articles. In some cases, he included a notation that “no transcript or clips” were available, despite the fact that records were easily findable online.


Before public pressure forced him to amend his submission, he had even left off that he was rejected for a federal judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, despite the questionnaire specifically requiring disclosure of all nominations and public offices held, including any “unsuccessful nominations for appointed office.”

The questionnaire also has another simple, yet very important, section: “list the ten most significant litigated matters which you personally handled.” Significant. Personally handled. The language is quite clear. As part of his ongoing effort to rewrite history and portray himself as a civil rights champion, however, four of the 10 cases Sessions listed were civil rights cases in which he played no more than a titular role.

By almost any commonsense interpretation, Sessions was simply not being truthful about his involvement with or handling of these cases because the truth is he did not litigate these civil rights cases. Jeff Sessions’s involvement with these “significant litigated matters” that he initially alleged to have “personally handled” amounted to signing his name on a complaint and having his name added to any motions or briefs by the attorneys who were actually litigating the case. 

In the face of criticism, Sessions is now trying to rewrite the record again, submitting an update to his questionnaire where he essentially acknowledges that he did not do much personal handling of the cases he originally claimed to have personally handled, and instead taking credit for the nominal act of co-signing the work of the Department of Justice lawyers who were personally handling these significant cases.

In the face of Sessions’s omissions and flouting of the process, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is calling for special treatment of Sessions. Grassley described legitimate questions about Sessions’s questionnaire as “preposterous.”

Even though Sessions’s submissions have been inaccurate and incomplete on their face, Grassley is trying to mitigate these failures because “committee members have known and served beside [Sessions] for 20 years.” In other words, because Sessions is part of the club, Grassley is proposing that Sessions shouldn’t be held to the same standards Sessions himself demanded of nominees when he deemed the failure to submit a complete questionnaire an “extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role,” and declared that an “unwillingness to take seriously [the] obligation to complete these basic forms” … “is potentially disqualifying.”

Furthermore, in changing the rules for the benefit of a friend and a larger partisan agenda, Grassley is either forgetting or willfully ignoring that the information called for in the questionnaire is not just intended for the benefit of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is for intended to inform the American people, whom both senators and the attorney general ultimately serve. 

What is preposterous is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wanting to set aside the rules and create special treatment for someone being considered for the job of chief law enforcement officer of this country. No senator deserves special treatment because of his title or who he knows — not during the hearings, and not in the final vote.

The American people demand and deserve a full and fair vetting of the next attorney general. Sessions’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, currently scheduled for next week, should not go forward until Sessions has submitted a complete and truthful questionnaire and there has been sufficient time for review.

Jeff Sessions is applying to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. The People’s Lawyer. If he could not even fill out the government job application for the post he seeks accurately and truthfully, how can he be expected to guide the Department of Justice with competence and integrity at a time when our country needs the robust enforcement of the rule of law more than ever? 

Sessions’s bad-faith effort to mislead the public about his qualifications should not be rewarded with an appointment to one of the most important positions in our government.

Sessions has demonstrated how unfit he is to be the attorney general of the United States and, like any other unfit applicant, he should not get the job.


Todd A. Cox is the director of Policy for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Attorney general Chuck Grassley Department of Justice Grassley Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions NAACP Republicans Trump administration

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