Jeff Sessions

  • June 13, 2017

    by Dan Froomkin

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has never been clear about what exactly he has recused himself from.

    He has arguably violated it at least once already, by participating in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    Expectations are mounting about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. But if and when Mueller decides to press criminal charges against top Trump officials – not to mention Trump himself -- the pressure to shut him down will become immense.

    How Sessions defines his recusal going forward, therefore, could be hugely consequential should Sessions manage to keep his job and should Mueller manage to do his.

    Senators on the Intelligence Committee will get a chance to question Sessions today, and they could do worse than focusing on that recusal and what he is willing to say it means.

    Specifically, they should get Sessions to say on the record whether or not he is recusing himself from any and all matters that fall under Mueller's remit going forward -- as well as promising not to fire Mueller or any member of his team.

    The attorney general's official recusal statement on March 2 was an oddly-worded exercise in obfuscation. "I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States," Sessions said.

  • May 10, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Erwin Chemerinsky, ACS Board Member; Dean and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

    President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey creates an urgent need for a special prosecutor, independent of the White House and the Justice Department, to investigate whether members of the Trump campaign team and administration violated federal law. Comey had been leading the investigation into Russian influence in the presidential election and whether crimes occurred. Comey’s termination, six years before the end of his term, raises the question of whether this was done to squelch this investigation and who will lead a thorough inquiry that will insure that the prosecution of any who violated federal laws.

    There is strong evidence that crimes were committed. Michael Flynn, and perhaps others, appear to have violated federal statutes requiring registration as an agent of a foreign government and disclosures of payments from foreign governments. Moreover, it seems clear that Attorney General Sessions violated federal laws that prohibit lying to Congress.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Sessions in a questionnaire if he had “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.” Sessions’s answer was "no." During the confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions what he would do if he learned of evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.  Sessions replied, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

  • April 24, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Laura W. Brill, Partner, Kendall Brill Kelly

    It is a pretty safe bet that if, after losing a motion for a preliminary injunction, a fourth-year associate were to go on the radio and say that she was amazed that some judge sitting on an island in the Pacific Ocean could issue an injunction against her client, that associate would not have a job for long. And she would not help matters if her main defense was, “Nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”

    Every lawyer knows this.

    What do we make then of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comments in response to the preliminary injunction on the president’s travel ban that was issued by the Hon. Derrick K. Watson in federal district court in Hawaii? And what are we as lawyers going to do about it?

    Like so many of you, I have been asking myself questions like this since the presidential election. I still don’t know the answers. But I do believe that this administration’s repeated attacks on the legitimacy of our courts pose a serious threat to the fair administration of justice and the protection of constitutional rights. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to articulate the values that we think are important to a constitutional democracy and to provide a counterbalance so that the public will not be misled. That is why I have chosen to make my views known and to ask other lawyers and law professors to join me in expressing our support for judicial independence. 

    Two months ago, in response to President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments, in which he referred to the Hon. James L. Robart as a “so-called judge” after the injunction barring the first travel ban, I wrote a public letter to Attorney General Sessions, calling on him to ask the president to stop personal attacks on judges and on the legitimacy of the courts.  In a matter of days, 6,400 lawyers and law professor from across the country and the political spectrum signed the letter.

  • January 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Alison Siegler, Clinical Professor and Director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and Member of ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter Board of Advisors

    Last week, law school faculty around the country filed a statement with the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their opposition to Sen. Jeff Sessions’s nomination as attorney general of the United States. The letter was signed by 1,424 law school faculty members from 180 different law schools in all 49 states that have a law school and became part of the official congressional record for the confirmation hearing. At Sessions’s hearing on Jan. 10, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein referred to the statement as a “pretty comprehensive” list of law professors and noted the geographic breadth of the signatories, before asking Sessions for his response to the statement.

    The faculty letter urges senators to reject the nomination, stating: “All of us believe it is unacceptable for someone with Sen. Sessions’s record to lead the Department of Justice.” The letter speaks of Sessions’s troubling civil rights record and also expresses deep reservations about his record in the areas of criminal justice, immigration, the environment, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. “Some of us have concerns about his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border. Some of us have concerns about his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration. Some of us have concerns about his questioning of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Some of us have concerns about his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community. Some of us share all of these concerns.” This letter echoes many of the same misgivings expressed in the Open Letter from Constitutional Law Scholars to President-Elect Donald Trump and the Open Letter from 1,060 Law Students to President-Elect Donald J. Trump, both released by ACS.       

  • January 9, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Beau Tremitiere, ACS Next Generation Leader and Board Member of the ACS Student Chapter at Northwestern University School of Law

    The nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as U.S. Attorney General is deeply troubling and more than one thousand law students from around the country have signed this letter to President-elect Trump in opposition to his nomination. We join more than 1,100 law professors and dozens of constitutional scholars in expressing concern over the Senator’s fitness to serve as our nation’s top lawyer and law enforcement official. Few of us harbored false hope that President-elect Trump would nominate a candidate who shares all our values and priorities, but we endeavored to believe he would nominate someone who is, at the very least, committed to our nation’s founding principles of equality, justice and shared opportunity. After all, our country faces some of the most daunting legal and social challenges that we have encountered in our history and progress will be impossible without an Attorney General willing and able to defend the Constitution and protect the interests of millions of underrepresented citizens and immigrants.

    The next Attorney General must be both forward-looking and committed to fixing the unsolved problems of our nation’s checkered past. After decades of misguided policy, there is an emerging socio-political consensus that the “War on Drugs” has been harmful and counterproductive, systematically devastating communities of color and further stigmatizing addiction. Likewise, there is growing recognition of the insidious effects of institutionalized racism and implicit bias in law enforcement, the need for greater accountability and the importance of building trust between community leaders and all actors in the criminal justice system. Wildly disproportionate and racially-biased sentencing schemes for minor, non-violent crimes remain on the books, but the dismantling has finally begun. Among other worrisome economic trends, increasing consolidation in key industries has further entrenched powerful interests, harming small businesses, innovation and consumers alike. While marriage equality is finally the law of the land, the breadth and scope of permissible religious accommodations remain largely unsettled. Legal protections for transgender persons are in flux and in the meantime, they see their basic human rights violated each day. Voting rights for millions of Americans have been stripped away since Shelby County v. Holder, as redistricting, poll closures and voter identification laws threaten to erase the Voting Rights Act’s transformative legacy. These are just a few of the many pressing legal issues that will demand the attention of the next Attorney General on their first day in office.

    As an advocate and aggressive enforcer, the Attorney General can stand up for the oppressed, inspire the disillusioned and hold accountable those who believe they are above the law. While the most inspired Attorney General cannot single-handedly cure our nation’s ills, an apathetic Department of Justice, or worse yet, a Department of Justice committed to undermining progress, can set back social, political and legal gains by decades. Nonetheless, Attorneys General from both sides of the aisle—from Tom C. Clark to Robert F. Kennedy to Dick Thornburg to Loretta Lynch—have consistently embraced their sacred duty and served honorably as the nation’s top law enforcement officer and chief lawyer. Based on his three decades in public life, Senator Sessions has proven himself unfit to serve in this most important and revered position.