Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., will face off against his colleagues and critics Tuesday as his attorney general confirmation hearing gets underway. Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Justice, was expected to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m. EST.
The hearing was due to be an interesting one, given Sessions' controversial reputation among civil rights groups. You can watch a live stream of the hearing here on C-SPAN or below:
Sessions, who has been a senator for 20 years, was nominated Nov. 18 for the attorney general post, according to the committee's website. The backlash was immediate, with the NAACP issuing a statement accusing Sessions of carrying on "on an old, ugly legacy in this country’s history when civil rights for African-Americans, women and minorities were not regarded as core American values."
Much of the controversy stemmed from Sessions' 1986 hearing after then-President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be the U.S. district judge for the southern district of Alabama. During the four-day event, various attorneys accused Sessions of racist behavior, which included calling a black assistant "boy," decrying the NAACP as "un-American" and saying a white lawyer who worked for black clients was a "disgrace to his race," according to ABC News. The committee ultimately decided not to recommend Sessions to the full Senate.
Despite the debate around Sessions — which last week included the arrest of several NAACP leaders who staged a sit-in at his office — the Trump transition team has defended the president-elect's choice. Ken Blackwell, who leads Trump's domestic transition team, pointed to Sessions' support of the Voting Rights Act in a recent interview with International Business Times.
"I think he is a friend of civil rights activists who are looking for a balance and fairness in our judicial system — he is a leading advocate for the rule of law," Blackwell told IBT.
However, at least two prominent black lawmakers disagree — and plan to take action Tuesday. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., have both announced they intend to testify against Sessions during the hearing, CNN reported.
The hearing will also likely include discussions about drug policy, immigration and the role of law enforcement in various communities, according to CBS News.