Jeff Sessions, Unleashed at the Border

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.

It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and “transnational gangs” poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference: Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.

When Mr. Sessions got to the part about the “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document forgers” overthrowing our immigration system, the American flag behind him had clearly heard enough — it leaned back and fell over as if in a stupor. An agent rushed to rescue it, and stood there for the rest of the speech: a human flag stand and metaphor. A guy with a uniform and gun, wrapped in Old Glory, helping to give the Trump administration’s nativist policies a patriotic sheen.

It was in the details of Mr. Sessions’s oratory that his game was exposed. He talked of cities and suburbs as immigrant-afflicted “war zones,” but the crackdown he seeks focuses overwhelmingly on nonviolent offenses, the document fraud and unauthorized entry and other misdeeds that implicate many people who fit no sane definition of brutal criminal or threat to the homeland.

The problem with Mr. Sessions’s turbocharging of the Justice Department’s efforts against what he paints as machete-wielding “depravity” is how grossly it distorts the bigger picture. It reflects his long fixation — shared by his boss, President Trump — on immigration not as an often unruly, essentially salutary force in American history, but as a dire threat. It denies the existence of millions of people who are a force for good, economic mainstays and community assets, less prone to crime than the native-born — workers, parents, children, neighbors and, above all, human beings deserving of dignity and fair treatment under the law.

Mr. Sessions is ordering his prosecutors to make immigration a priority, to consider prosecution in any case involving “transportation and harboring of aliens” and to consider felony charges for an extended menu of offenses, like trying to re-enter after deportation, “aggravated identity theft” and fraudulent marriage.

He said the government was now detaining every adult stopped at the border, and vowed to “surge” the supply of immigration judges, to increase the flow of unauthorized immigrants through the courts and out of the country. He has ordered all 94 United States attorney’s offices to designate “border security coordinators,” no matter how far from “ground zero” they are.

Mr. Sessions and the administration are being led by their bleak vision to the dark side of the law. The pieces are falling into place for the indiscriminate “deportation force” that the president promised. Mr. Sessions and the homeland security secretary, John Kelly, have attacked cities and states that decline to participate in the crackdown. Mr. Sessions has threatened these “sanctuary” locales with loss of criminal-justice funding, on the false assertion that they are defying the law. (In fact, “sanctuary” cities are upholding law and order. They recognize that enlisting state and local law enforcement for deportation undermines community trust, local policing and public safety.)

More here.

Reality is creeping into the Trump show

David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post:

The House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday marked the end of the opening installment of “The President,” the must-watch reality/horror show that has transfixed the nation and the world. Now the plot gets more serious, perhaps darker, with some new characters likely to emerge in key national-security roles.

President Trump should be less of a stage hog going forward, and his Twitter storms less intense. He is often described as a narcissist, but he’s not suicidal. He knows he has been rebuffed in a public hearing that he can’t ridicule as “fake news.” With his approval rating below 40 percent, he needs to broaden his base. Trump wants to disrupt, but he also wants to succeed.

Trump and the nation would be well served if his two leading Cabinet secretaries, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, played more prominent roles. Trump needs the solid outriggers that Mattis and Tillerson can provide. This presidency is wounded at a time of potentially serious crises.

Mattis and Tillerson are stabilizers. They have both led big organizations under pressure, and they know what command is. Both have been moving cautiously in the early weeks, feeling their way and mostly keeping their mouths shut in public. They don’t like talking to the press, but in that they’re hardly alone among former chief executives and military leaders.

Mattis and Tillerson aren’t communicating much with the public, but they’re talking to Trump and to each other, while they figure out the strategic positions this administration will take on key issues. The two Cabinet secretaries try to have breakfast once a week, talk frequently by phone, and hash out common positions before each big meeting in the Situation Room.

These two know how to say no to Trump. Mattis famously did so on torture, and Tillerson did the same rebutting a presidential musing about abolishing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Mattis and Tillerson have three paramount tasks — matters of war and peace on which their advice will be crucial for a beleaguered president with big ideas but limited experience.

The first test is “eradicating” the Islamic State. Trump claimed during the campaign he had a secret strategy, but in office he has sensibly expanded the approach recommended by Gen. Joseph Votel, the Central Command leader, which focuses on capturing Raqqa, the Islamic State capital in Syria. Centcom favors using a militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is multiethnic but led by Syrian Kurds from a group known as the YPG.

U.S. commanders rightly argue that while the Kurdish warriors are anathema to Turkey, they’re the only hope for quickly seizing Raqqa. Turkey’s claims about an alternative Sunni militia known as the “First Corps” aren’t credible. Raqqa is an urgent priority: Terrorists there are hatching plots targeting Europe and the United States.

The message to Turkey should be blunt: Let the United States work with the Kurds to clear Raqqa now (and get them out afterward), or Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime will seize the initiative.

Much more here.

Trump Seeks Inquiry Into Unproved Allegations That Obama Tapped His Phones

Michael D. Shear and Noah Weiland, reporting for the New York Times:

President Trump, a day after leveling a widely disputed allegation that President Barack Obama had ordered the tapping of his phones, on Sunday demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama abused the power of federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election.

In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.

“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in the statement.

Mr. Spicer, who repeated the entire statement in a series of Twitter messages, added that “neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”

A spokesman for Mr. Obama and his former aides have called the accusation by Mr. Trump completely false, saying that Mr. Obama never ordered any wiretapping of a United States citizen.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Kevin Lewis, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr. Trump’s demand for a congressional investigation appears to be based, at least in part, on unproved claims by Breitbart News and conservative talk radio hosts that secret warrants were issued authorizing the tapping of the phones of Mr. Trump and his aides at Trump Tower in New York.

In a series of Twitter messages on Saturday, the president seemed to be convinced that those claims were true. In one post, Mr. Trump said, “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

On Sunday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, said the president was determined to find out what had really happened, calling it potentially the “greatest abuse of power” that the country has ever seen.

“Look, I think he’s going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential,” Ms. Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself. And the American people have a right to know if this took place.”

Senior law enforcement and intelligence officials who worked in the Obama administration have said there were no such secret intelligence warrants regarding Mr. Trump. Asked whether such a warrant existed, James R. Clapper Jr., a former director of national intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, “Not to my knowledge, no.”

“There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign,” Mr. Clapper added.

Mr. Trump’s demands for a congressional investigation were initially met with skepticism by lawmakers, including Republicans. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said he was “not sure what it is that he is talking about.”

“I’m not sure what the genesis of that statement was,” Mr. Rubio said.

Pressed to elaborate on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Rubio said, “I’m not going to be a part of a witch hunt, but I’m also not going to be a part of a cover-up.”

This is absolutely outrageous. Trump is losing his mind, and is searching for some way to hide from the “facts.” They better put Pence on standby alert. The main point is that Trump has presented no proof of any connections from Obama.

Despite early denials, growing list of Trump camp contacts with Russians haunts White House

Rosalind S. Helderman, writing in the Washington Post:

Two days after the presidential election, a Russian official speaking to a reporter in Moscow offered a surprising acknowledgment: The Kremlin had been in contact with Donald Trump’s campaign.

The claim, coming amid allegations that Russia had interfered with the election, was met with an immediate no-wiggle-room, blanket denial from Trump’s spokeswoman. “It never happened,” Hope Hicks told the Associated Press at the time. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

In fact, it is now clear it did happen.

The past few days have brought a growing list of confirmed communications between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials, with each new revelation adding to a cloud of suspicion that hangs over the White House as critics demand an independent investigation.

Trump’s team has offered various explanations for the meetings: Some encounters, they have said, were brief, no more than casual, polite introductions. Others involved the routine diplomacy common for officials surrounding a candidate for the nation’s highest office.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was an early Trump campaign adviser, said his two interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, first reported this week by The Washington Post, came in his role as a senator, not as a campaign surrogate.

It is unclear why the White House has consistently denied contacts with Russian officials if the meetings that took place were innocuous.

As a result, the confirmations of the encounters have trickled out through a series of news stories that have proved increasingly damaging to the Trump administration, with some Trump associates appearing to shift their accounts over time.

Of course, there is much more here.

Jeff Sessions Had No Choice

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

It’s no great credit to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he finally recused himself from all Justice Department investigations relating to the 2016 presidential campaign — and specifically from all current or future inquiries into Russian attempts to influence the election. Short of tendering his resignation, he had no other real choice.

Mr. Sessions, who was President Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, as well as a top national security adviser to the Trump campaign, was never in a position to serve as an impartial arbiter of any investigation involving Mr. Trump or his campaign. But until Thursday he refused to cede control over Justice Department investigations into contacts between the campaign and the Russian government.

That stance became untenable on Wednesday night, after The Washington Post reported that, while testifying at his confirmation hearings in January, Mr. Sessions had failed to disclose two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the campaign. In response to a question about connections between Russia and the Trump team, from Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Mr. Sessions said under oath that he was “not aware of any of those activities.” Then, without prompting, he volunteered, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

As it turns out, Mr. Sessions met twice with Mr. Kislyak, once at the Republican National Convention in July, and again in his Senate office in September — around the time that Russian efforts to meddle in the election on behalf of Mr. Trump reached their peak. Still, meeting an ambassador is no crime in itself, which makes Mr. Sessions’s denial even more inexplicable. On Thursday, he said he “never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries” about the campaign. Yet a Trump administration official told CNBC’s John Harwood that Mr. Sessions had talked about the election with the ambassador, if only in “superficial” terms.

Mr. Sessions is the latest administration official to be caught between his words and the truth on Russia. Just a few weeks ago, the president fired Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Mr. Sessions’s recusal is only a first necessary step. The second must be the appointment of a special counsel — an independent, nonpartisan actor who can both investigate and prosecute any criminal acts in relation to Russian interference, whether by Mr. Sessions or anyone else. That’s the only way an investigation can have credibility with the public. Simply shifting investigative authority to one of Mr. Sessions’s deputies, who report to him on all other matters, would do nothing to cure the underlying conflict.

More here.

Top GOP lawmaker calls on Sessions to recuse himself from Russia investigation

Via The Washington Post:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from investigations of whether Russia interfered in the presidential 2016 election at the Justice Department and FBI.

To maintain “the trust of the American people, you recuse yourself in these situations,” McCarthy said during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday morning, noting it would simply “be easier” for the public to have confidence in the investigation if Sessions bowed out.

McCarthy’s comments follow revelations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during election season. Under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions had said that he had not met with any Russian officials.

“I don’t have all the information in front of me, I don’t want to prejudge, but I just think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation,” McCarthy said. “I think it’d be easier from that standpoint” for Sessions to recuse himself.

According to Justice Department officials, Sessions, a top Trump supporter, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016, including one September meeting in his office.

McCarthy is the first prominent Republican to call for Sessions to recuse himself. Some Democrats went further, calling on Sessions to resign and demanding an independent investigation.

“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement released late Wednesday, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”

Much more here.

It’s now political suicide for Republicans if they don’t call for deeper investigations on Russia

Chris Cillizza, reporting for the Washington Post:

President Trump’s Russia problems just got a whole lot worse.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak twice in 2016, according to The Washington Post, conversations that run directly counter to Sessions’s assertions during his confirmation hearing to be the nation’s top cop.

In that Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 1o, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Sessions whether he was aware of any contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions replied.

It does not take a political genius to understand how big a problem this is for Sessions, Trump and congressional Republicans more broadly. (Sessions’s response — I talked to a lot people! — isn’t going to cut it.)

Before this report, most congressional Republicans were resistant to the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and surrogates — insisting that the ongoing FBI investigation and congressional committees looking into the issue were more than enough.

That’s going to become an untenable position for Republicans — starting with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — in light of this new information about Sessions. Not only is there a very serious question about whether Sessions misled — purposely or accidentally — his colleagues while under oath, but this is only the latest incident involving unanswered questions about the ties among Trump, his top advisers and Russia.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn lost his job last month after lying to Vice President Pence — and lots of other people — about the nature of his conversations with Kisylak. Trump has repeatedly refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin while insisting that stories about his ties to Russia are “fake news.”

In short: Where there’s smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke, most reasonable people will assume there is fire — or that there should be an independent investigation to determine whether there is fire. Arguing that “there’s nothing to see here” is simply not a tenable position for Republicans at this point.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R), who has been outspoken in raising doubts about Trump and Russia, was blunt about what needs to happen if Sessions spoke to Kisylak.

I suspect lots of Republicans will follow Graham’s lead over the next 24 or 48 hours. The details here — particularly given the Flynn resignation — almost certainly will force an act of political triage from GOPers. They need to find a way to wall themselves off from what, with each passing day, is becoming more and more toxic. Otherwise, the spillage could leak all over them.

More here.

Democrats Call for Sessions to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry

Charlie Savage, reporting for the New York Times:

Democrats escalated their demands late Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government after a disclosure that Mr. Sessions himself spoke with the Russian ambassador last year, seemingly contradicting his testimony at his confirmation hearing.

And some Democrats went further, suggesting that Mr. Sessions had perjured himself and demanding that he resign.

“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. “There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.”

But the Trump administration rejected the accusations as partisan attacks, and Mr. Sessions said in a statement issued shortly before midnight that he had not addressed election matters with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.

“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Mr. Sessions said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

The clash was the latest escalation in the continuing fallout from what intelligence officials have concluded was Russian interference in the 2016 election to help President Trump, including by hacking Democratic emails and providing them to WikiLeaks for release.

F.B.I. officials have been scrutinizing contacts between people affiliated with the Trump campaign over communication with the Russian government. And last month, the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, resigned after it emerged that Mr. Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation with Mr. Kislyak.

Now, Mr. Sessions appears to be at risk of becoming caught in that same wave. He was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump and became an architect of his populist campaign strategy who sharpened the candidate’s message on immigration and trade. Mr. Sessions became a trusted adviser and is seen as one of the power centers in the administration.

At the confirmation hearing for attorney general in January, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked Mr. Sessions about a CNN report that intelligence briefers had told Barack Obama, then the president, and Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Mr. Trump.

Mr. Franken also noted that the report indicated that surrogates for Mr. Trump and intermediaries for the Russian government continued to exchange information during the campaign. He asked Mr. Sessions what he would do if that report proved true.

Mr. Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities.” He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

But the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday that Mr. Sessions had twice communicated with the Russian ambassador last year. The first time was in July, at the Republican National Convention, after he gave a speech at an event for ambassadors sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The second time was a visit to his office by Mr. Kislyak in September. The Washington Post earlier reported both encounters.

More here.

President Trump Breaks a Promise on Transgender Rights

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy by vowing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from violence and oppression. Soon after taking office, President Trump announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order his predecessor issued to protect L.G.B.T. people from workplace discrimination.

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the L.G.B.T.Q. community,” the White House said in a statement on Jan. 31. Then along came Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During his first week in office, Mr. Sessions halted the Justice Department’s efforts to defend in court the legality of the Obama administration’s guidance to school districts on how to provide a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students. A key part of that guidance advised school officials to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.

This week, Mr. Sessions and the Department of Education rescinded the guidance entirely. His baffling rationale was that it added to the confusion around an issue that has prompted spirited debates and legal fights around the country.

In fact, it did the opposite. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who has been fighting his Virginia school district for the right to use the boys’ restroom on campus. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice took the position that existing federal law already confers that right. Mr. Sessions has reversed the government’s course.

Of all the matters of consequence before the new attorney general, it is curious that Mr. Sessions made repealing this guidance, and abandoning its defense, priorities. He clashed earlier in the week with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who reportedly felt uneasy about rescinding the guidelines, a move that will make students vulnerable. After the two made their case to the president, Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general.

This is unsurprising. Mr. Trump has demonstrated time and again that his stated personal convictions are malleable. A genuine champion of gay and transgender rights would have steered clear of politicians like Mr. Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, who have gone to great lengths to vilify and oppress gay and transgender Americans.

On Wednesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, justified revoking the transgender school guidance by saying Mr. Trump is a “firm believer in states’ rights.” This inglorious justification has been deployed repeatedly by those on the wrong side of history in earlier civil rights battles. It was used to fight abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, the repeal of Jim Crow laws and, most recently, same-sex marriage.

More here.

Time for Congress to Investigate Mr. Trump’s Ties to Russia

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

In history, this is where Congress steps in. During the Vietnam War, Watergate and the Iran-contra scandal, when a president’s actions or policies crossed the line, Congress investigated and held the White House to account. The time has come for it to do so again.

In the last week alone, Americans have witnessed the firing of President Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and learned with shock and incredulity that members of Mr. Trump’s campaign and inner circle were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials.

Coming on top of credible information from America’s intelligence agencies that Russia tried to destabilize and influence the 2016 presidential campaign, these latest revelations are more than sufficient reason for Congress to investigate what Moscow has been up to and whether people at the highest levels of the United States government have aided and abetted the interests of a nation that has tried to thwart American foreign policy since the Cold War.

Given that context, one might expect Mr. Trump to be clamoring for details that would eliminate any suspicion that his administration is in league with an enemy. Instead he has waged an unhinged attack on the intelligence agencies themselves, praising President Vladimir Putin of Russia at every turn and pointing fingers everywhere but at himself, while refusing to take a single step to resolve questions about his administration’s ties to Russia.

Hence the urgent need for high-level congressional intervention. The ideal vehicle would be an investigative committee of senior senators from both parties as well as members of the House. Some Senate Republicans are beginning to step up. Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has already said his committee will investigate the election hacking. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top-ranking Democrat, are asking for a briefing and transcripts of Mr. Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Pat Roberts favor a broader investigation. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, has also raised the possibility of an investigation by Senate committees with jurisdiction over the intelligence community.

The Democrats would obviously be on board — Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, has also called for the Senate Intelligence Committee to lead a bipartisan inquiry. The person who needs to make this happen is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. Whatever form the committee takes, as Mr. Schumer said on Wednesday, all members must be granted equal access to “intelligence officials, transcripts and documents that they need to answer critical questions, and they must be permitted to make their findings public to the maximum extent possible.”

More here.

Elizabeth Warren Persists

Gail Collins, writing in the New York Times:

It’s a dark and dismal time for American liberals. Except for the part where the opposition keeps shooting itself in the foot.

We will now pause to contemplate the fact that this week the Senate Republicans attempted to forward their agenda by silencing Elizabeth Warren while she was reading a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.

In explanation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically called Warren a pushy girl.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Never has a political party reached such a pinnacle of success, and then instantly begun using it to inspire the opposition.

We’re less than three weeks into the Trump administration, and almost every day the people in power stop delivering the message of the day and veer off into a Strange Tale.

Which do you think the Democrats found most empowering — Trump’s first full day in the White House, when he marched off to the C.I.A. to deliver a rambling tirade about the inauguration crowd size? The Holocaust Remembrance Day proclamation that eliminated any reference to the Jews? Or the new Supreme Court nominee saying the president who named him was being “demoralizing” and “disheartening”?

Or this Senate-silencing moment? The subject at hand was the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The debate was going to be endless. It was evening and nobody was listening. Warren was taking her turn and reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote about Sessions in 1986.

That was when Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship on the basis of an impressive record of racial insensitivity as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. The charges included referring to a black assistant U.S. attorney as “boy,” joking about the Ku Klux Klan and referring to the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American.”

His supporters say he’s changed. Indeed, Sessions has evolved into a senator who is well liked by his peers and obsessed with illegal immigrants. Totally different person.

More here.

Here are the eight Trump Cabinet picks Democrats plan to target

Ed O’Keefe, writing in the Washington Post:

Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

Such delays would upend Republican hopes of quickly holding hearings and confirming most of Trump’s top picks on Inauguration Day. But Democrats, hamstrung by their minority status, are determined to slow-walk Trump’s picks unless they start disclosing reams of personal financial data they’ve withheld so far, according to senior aides.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats will home in especially on Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), his pick for attorney general; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Betsy DeVos, selected to serve as education secretary.

There’s also Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee changes to Obamacare, who is expected to be attacked by Democrats for his support for privatizing Medicare. Andrew Puzder, a restaurant executive set to serve as labor secretary, will face scrutiny for past comments on the minimum wage, among other policies. Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner set to serve as treasury secretary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA, will also be the focus of Democratic attacks, aides said.

* * *

Absent from the Democratic hit list are retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, the pick for defense secretary; South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whom Trump has nominated to serve as ambassador to the United Nations; and John Kelly, a former Marine general and Trump’s selection to lead the Department of Homeland Security, signaling that all three should expect little trouble from Democrats.

More here.

Baseless Trump claims of a “rigged” election

Via The New York Times Editorial Board:

It may be too late for the Republican Party to save itself from the rolling disaster of Donald Trump, but the party’s top leaders still have the duty to speak out and help save the country from his reckless rhetoric. The most frightening example is Mr. Trump’s frenzied claim that the presidential election is being “rigged” against him — a claim he has ramped up as his chances of winning the presidency have gone down.

Instead of disavowing this absurdity outright, Republican leaders sit by in spineless silence. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, are the two most powerful Republicans in the country and should be willing to put the national interest above their own. Both know full well that there is no “rigging,” and yet between them they have managed one tepid response to Mr. Trump’s outrageous accusations: “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results,” Mr. Ryan’s spokeswoman said, “and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”

This is like standing back while an arsonist pours gasoline all over your house, then expressing confidence that the fire department will get there in time.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell could hardly dishonor themselves more than they already have in this sordid election year, but their refusal to stand up to Mr. Trump’s pernicious lie may be their lowest moment yet.

Other high-profile Republicans have amplified Mr. Trump’s charges and further riled up his angry base. On Saturday, Senator Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee from Alabama, told a crowd at a Trump rally in New Hampshire that “they are attempting to rig this election.” On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and now Mr. Trump’s race-baiting surrogate, told CNN that he would be a “moron” to believe that the voting in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia would be fair to Mr. Trump. “I have found very few situations where Republicans cheat,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They don’t control the inner cities the way Democrats do.”

More here.