Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, will come before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing Tuesday with a simple message to his fellow senators: You know me.
His prepared remarks touch on a litany of policy issues in the purview of the Justice Department – voting accessibility, police-community relations, war on terror, even gay rights. But his message, at its core, is one that emphasizes his deep ties with senators.
“You know who I am. You know what I believe in. You know that I am a man of my word and can be trusted to do what I say I will do,” Sessions will tell senators, according to his opening remarks. “You know that I revere our Constitution and am committed to the rule of law. And you know that I believe in fairness, impartiality and equal justice under the law.”
Underscoring his lengthy history and deep familiarity with the Justice Department, Sessions will emphasize the broad array of crimes he targeted in more than a dozen years as a federal prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Sessions, who was denied a federal judgeship by this same committee more than 30 years ago, will vow that the Justice Department “must never falter in its obligation to protect the civil rights of every American, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”
“A special priority for me in this regard will be aggressive enforcement of our laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible American voter, without hindrance or discrimination, and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process,” Sessions will say, according to his prepared remarks.
And perhaps anticipating questioning from Democrats, Sessions will stress that attorneys general must retain an air of political independence, even from the president who nominates them in the first place.
“He or she must be willing to tell the president ‘no’ if he overreaches. He or she cannot be a mere rubberstamp to any idea the president has,” Sessions will say. “He or she also must set the example for the employees in the department to do the right thing and ensure that they know the Attorney General will back them up, no matter what politician might call, or what powerful special interest, influential contributor, or friend might try to intervene.”
If he becomes the attorney general, “that is the way I will run the Department of Justice,” Sessions adds.
While Sessions pledges loyalty to the Justice Department, he also plans to suggest that changes are needed to combat what he calls a wave of “rising crime” in the U.S., something Obama administration officials say is an uptick after record declines and reflects rashes of murders in a small number of cities.
“These trends cannot continue,” Sessions declares of the spikes in places like Chicago and Baltimore.
Sessions’ fellow Senate Republicans will also try to highlight Sessions’ character to not only the public, but to Democrats who’ve promised a detailed grilling for Sessions before the Judiciary Committee, despite the clubby chamber’s tradition of senatorial deference when one of their own is nominated to the Cabinet.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in his own comments kicking off the confirmation hearing, will emphasize Sessions’ familiarity to members of the committee – both his policy views and how he’ll approach his prospective new job as attorney general.
“Every member of this committee knows from experience that, in his new role, Senator Sessions will be a leader for law and order administered without regard to person,” Grassley plans to say at the hearing. “Leadership to that end is exactly what the department now needs.”
Republicans have enlisted moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to formally introduce Sessions to the committee – testimony that sends a clear message that Sessions has the support of the broad spectrum of the conference.
“I can confidently vouch for the fact that Jeff Sessions is a person of integrity, a principled leader, and a dedicated public servant,” Collins will tell the Judiciary Committee.