WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — The first hearing to fill President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet kicked off Tuesday with Sen. Jeff Sessions.
The staunchly conservative Alabama senator has been tapped to serve as attorney general, touching off a string of pre-planned protests during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve his nomination.
Sessions has served for two decades in the upper chamber. Prior to that he was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due to charges of racism during his earlier tenure as a prosecutor.
“These are damnably false charges,” Sessions declared on Tuesday.
The Alabaman has always denied the racism claims and is now set to become the nation’s top law enforcer.
Sessions sat before his colleagues with his cute granddaughter sitting on his lap while former colleagues and committee leaders Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., opened the hearing.
There was no mistaking his message: I’m a warm family man ready to fairly serve my country.
Sessions carefully staked out several middle-ground positions during the Q&A portion on issues like same-sex marriage.
He said of the 2015 marriage equality case which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, “The Supreme Court has ruled on that … I will follow that decision.”
As protests from a variety of groups intermittently erupted during the proceedings, Sessions sat stoically and sipped his water.
‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’
Sessions’s legal name, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, did not escape the attention of those on hand who oppose his nomination.
Shouts of “Jefferson Beauregard” could be heard often as protesters attempted to tie the senator to stereotypes of southern aristocrats.
It’s an image he’s attempted to shake off since becoming a national figure in the 1980s.
‘This man is evil’
A diverse set of Sessions detractors sporadically sprouted up throughout the hearing to air an array of racially-driven dissents and displeasures.
One man dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes was dragged out of the room shouting, “I’m a white man, you cannot take me out of here … I own this country. White people own this country.”
Liberal Code Pink activists arrived early and packed the room, springing up to scream, “This man is evil, pure evil.”
Two men booming “Sessions is a racist” and “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA” nearly knocked over a row of television cameras as they were forced out by police officers.
Sessions chances remain strong
The Sessions hearing is set to continue into a second day Wednesday, when fellow Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, plans to break Senate precedent and testify against his colleague in the committee, due to concerns pertaining to law enforcement and race relations.
Nonetheless, America’s next attorney general will almost certainly be Sessions.
Once his nomination is cleared by the Republican-led Judiciary Committee, it will head to the full Senate for a floor vote.
He only needs the support of 51 senators. (Republicans currently control 52 seats.)
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales