Transcript: Sen. Cory Booker’s testimony against Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

Senator Booker’s office sent this over, and I thought it was worth posting. I can hear some of you groan; we’ve been critical of Booker both when he was Newark’s mayor and then our senator. But we’ve been critical on the merits, not because we don’t like the guy. People don’t get dumped into the ‘never-right’ barrel unless they’re always wrong. And right now, after a day of confirmation hearings on mostly truly unacceptable people, and with a vote-o-rama keeping everybody up late, I’ll take my allies where I find them. Today, Cory Booker made some history and showed some integrity alongside Rep. John Lewis who because of his history is especially credible in calling out Sessions’ racism, the very racism that another Senate Judiciary Committee, majority Republican like today’s, rejected him as Reagan’s federal judge nominee. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman posted video today of her fellow Congressional Black Caucus members in the chamber to watch the testimony of Sen. Booker, Rep. Lewis and Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana – all black. But all three were scheduled by the Committee to speak right near the end. By the time Booker spoke, only three Republican senators stayed to hear him. And that was the equivalent, Rep. Cedric Richmond said, “of being made to go to the back of the bus.”

Transcript Senator Cory Booker Testimony, Confirmation Hearing of Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and distinguished members of the committee. I know it is exceptional for a Senator to testify against another Senator nominated for a cabinet position, and I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me today.

I have worked closely with many of you, on both sides of the dais, on matters related to criminal justice reform and you know just how deeply motivated I am by the many issues our next Attorney General will heavily influence.

I know that some of my colleagues are unhappy that I’m breaking with Senate tradition to testify against the nomination of one of my colleagues. But I believe, like perhaps all of my colleagues, that in the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country.

While Senator Sessions and I have consistently disagreed on issues, he and I have always exercised a collegiality and mutual respect between us.

Perhaps the best example of this is the legislation we cosponsored to award the Congressional Gold Medal to those “foot soldiers” who marched at Selma, Alabama.

This was a blessing and honor to me because, in 2015, a retired judge, who was white, told me it was those brave marchers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge who inspired him as a young lawyer in the 1960s to seek “justice for all” in New Jersey, and begin representing black families looking to integrate white neighborhoods.

One of those families was mine.

I am literally sitting here because of people – marchers in Alabama and volunteer lawyers in New Jersey – who saw it as their affirmative duty to pursue justice.

The march for justice in America still continues.

I know of the urgency for law and order. I imagine that no sitting Senator has lived in higher crime neighborhoods than I have. I have seen unimaginable violence on American streets. I know the tremendous courage of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to fight crime.

I want an Attorney General who is committed to supporting law enforcement and securing law and order. But that is not enough.

America was founded heralding not law and order, but justice for all. And critical to that is equal justice under the law.

Law and order without justice is unobtainable, they are inextricably tied together. If there is no justice, there is no peace.

The Alabama State Troopers on the Edmond Pettis Bridge were seeking law and order.

The marchers were seeking justice – and ultimately the greater peace.

One of the victories of the Modern Civil Rights movement was the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which in effect made the Attorney General not only the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, but also vested in the office the responsibility to pursue civil rights and equal protections for all in America.

Senator Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requirement of the job – to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights, and justice for all. In fact, at numerous times in his career, he has demonstrated a hostility toward these convictions, and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals.

If confirmed, Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but his record indicates he won’t.

His record indicates that as Attorney General he would obstruct the growing national bipartisan movement toward criminal justice reform.

His record indicates that we cannot count on him to support state and national efforts toward bringing justice to a justice system that people on both sides of the aisle readily admit is biased against the poor, drug addicted, mentally ill, and people of color.

His record indicates that at a time when even the FBI director is speaking out about implicit racial bias in policing and the need to address it; at a time when the last two Attorneys General have taken steps to fix our broken criminal justice system; and at a time when the Justice Department he would lead has uncovered systemic abuses in police departments all over the United States including Ferguson, including Newark; Senator Sessions would not continue to lead urgently needed change.

The next Attorney General must bring hope and healing to our country, and this demands a more courageous empathy than Senator Sessions’ record demonstrates.

Challenges of race in America cannot be addressed if we refuse to confront them.

Persistent biases cannot be defeated unless we combat them.

The arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice – we must bend it.

If one is to be Attorney General they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice, and for civil rights. America needs an Attorney General who is resolute and determined to bend the arc. Senator Sessions’ record does not speak to that desire, intention, or will.

With all that is at stake in our nation now, I pray that my colleagues will join me in opposing his nomination.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Comments (3)

  1. Ken Sears

    Cory Booker and John Lewis testifiy vehemently against Sessions because Sessions is, a) from the south, b) is white, c) doesn’t recite their script verbatim, d) isn’t going to make the Justice Dept. a 24/7 activist arm of the civil rights movememt. When you listen to their substance-free tirades, it all amounts to “He’s a white Republican from the south and we just don’t want him to be AG.”
    When it comes to Republicans, the merest “hint” or “appearance” of any sort of ______-ism (fill in the blank) is “a matter of grave concern”…even when the “hints” are being cranked out baselessly and unscrupulously by the so-called “concerned”. But when a Democrat senator is blatantly a former KKK Grand Wizard, it suddenly matters (what a surprise) that he’s repentant and has seen the light.
    No one with an ounce of intelligence remotely believes that, had Robert Byrd been a Republican, he wouldn’t have been hounded and pilloried by the Democrats until his dying day, or at least till they succeeded in driving him out of Congress, under the banner of “Repentant or Not, Some Things Disqualify You Forever”.
    But when it comes to the Republicans, it doesn’t even matter whether you really DID anything to be repentant FOR. The banner suddenly reads: “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, So We Make The Smoke And Blame You For The Fire.”
    The crass demagoguery is stupefying.
    Zero substantive assertions, all tantrum and tirade and political pandering, and, most likely, Booker’s audition for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
    Really contemptible. The worst that the word “politics” summons up

    1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Wow. Just wow to this. Comment approved so the rest of you are clear the nonsense we have to clear out of the way. No recognition of the substance of the objections to Sen. Sessions running the Justice Dept, while having a history in which he is out of step with the very concept of justice itself. For this reader, the objections were all racist (because Sessions is white), and party (because Sessions is Republican), and PC (because Sessions “doesn’t recite their script verbatim”). Fascinating that this reader watched the same testimony I did and calls what was said – by Cory Booker, John Lewis and Cedric Richmond – as a tantrum.

      The new normal. Resist the new normal.

  2. BPToole

    For the last several years, Sen. Sessions has earned the lowest ratings from both the ACLU and the NAACP, usually tying with Sens. Cornyn and Inhofe, at the bottom. Sen. Sessions’ history and his own testimony on the 10th indicate a preference to maintain the recent systems of preferential incarceration, impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the poor, especially minorities. Gays, lesbians, Muslims and, for that matter, environmentalists, should expect that Sen. Sessions will be skeptical, at best, about their grievances, and about the reality of their problems, under the approving eyes of Messrs. Trump and Bannon. Remember that a legacy of the Civil Rights movement was to give racism and other forms of bigotry such a bad name that most racists and other bigots won’t admit to their prejudices. They are practiced at concealing their intentions, when they speak. Look instead at what they do.


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