The Sen. Jeff Sessions nomination for attorney general is being met with alarm at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and could trigger an exodus there, former officials tell Politico. 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 stems largely from the 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 said that was a joke and he denied allegations that he’d used an ugly racial epithet. But his nomination was voted down 10-8, only the second time that had happened in half a century. The grievances include his actions as U.S. Attorney in Mobile, where he unsuccessfully prosecuted black civil rights leaders on charges of ballot-tampering.