"If there was a level above DEFCON One, it would be that," said Sam Bagenstos, who was the civil rights division’s No. 2 official from 2009 to 2011. "Jeff Sessions has a unique and uniquely troubled history with the civil rights division. ... From the perspective of the work of the enforcement of civil rights, I think the Sessions pick is a particularly troublesome one — more than anyone else you can think of.”
The concern at the Justice Department's anti-discrimination unit stems largely from the same accounts of alleged racist remarks and racially tinged incidents that emerged when Sessions was nominated to a district court judgeship in 1986. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a black lawyer testify that Sessions referred to him as "boy," and another attorney testify that Sessions said about the Ku Klux Klan that he thought the group was "OK, until I heard that they smoked pot."
Sessions' allies insisted the claims of racial bias and insensitivity are off-base and amount to thinly veiled disagreement with the senator's political views.
"The only reason folks are criticizing him is because people don't like his conservative principles," said Hans von Spakovsky, a former official in the Justice Department's civil rights division under President George W. Bush. "He's a very good guy. The claims resurrecting these claims of racism are complete and total bull."
Von Spakovsky said Sessions' critics were intentionally or inadvertently ignoring his efforts to fight racism in his home state. "It was his case that he filed against the KKK that helped break the back of the Klan in Alabama," von Spakovsky said.
The current crop of activist lawyers in the DOJ civil rights division, pushing to get men into women's bathrooms across the country desperately needs to be thinned in favor of lawyers who would look at real civil rights issues, like attempts to squash the second amendment. But it's too much to hope for self-pruning.
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