Jeff Sessions Opening Statement

Published:  

Here is the full text of Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions’ opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the confirmation hearing beginning today.



Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, distinguished members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you today. I thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions as you discharge your duty in the appointment process prescribed by our Constitution.

I also want to thank my dear friends, Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Susan Collins for their kind introductions. It is hard to believe, really, that the three of us have served together in this body for nearly 20 years.

I want to thank President-elect Trump for the confidence and trust that he has shown by nominating me to serve as the Attorney General of the United States. I feel the weight of an honor greater than I have aspired to. If I am confirmed, I commit to you and to the American people to be worthy of that office and the special trust that comes with it.

I come before you today as a colleague who has worked with you for years, and with some of you for 20 years. You know who I am. You know what I believe in. You know that I am a man of my word and can be trusted to do what I say I will do. You know that I revere our Constitution and am committed to the rule of law. And you know that I believe in fairness, impartiality, and equal justice under the law.

Over the years, you have heard me say many times that I love the Department of Justice. The Office of the Attorney General of the United States is not a political position, and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States. He or she must be committed to following the law. He or she must be willing to tell the President “no” if he overreaches. He or she cannot be a mere rubberstamp to any idea the President has. He or she also must set the example for the employees in the Department to do the right thing and ensure that they know the Attorney General will back them up, no matter what politician might call, or what powerful special interest, influential contributor, or friend might try to intervene. The message must be clear: Everyone is expected to do their duty.

That is the way I was expected to perform as an Assistant United States Attorney. That is the way I trained my assistants when I became United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. And if confirmed, that is the way I will run the Department of Justice.

In my over 14 years in the Department of Justice, I tried cases of nearly every kind—drug trafficking, firearms, and other violent crimes, significant public corruption cases, financial wrongdoing, civil rights violations, environmental violations, and hate crimes. Protecting the people of this country from crime, and especially from violent crime, is the high calling of the men and women of the Department of Justice. Today, I am afraid, that has become more important than ever.

Since the early 1980s, good policing and prosecutions have been a strong force in reducing crime. Drug use and murders are half what they were in 1980. I am very concerned, however, that the recent jump in the violent crime and murder rates are not anomalies, but the beginning of a dangerous trend that could reverse the hard won gains that have made America a safer and more prosperous place. The latest official FBI statistics show that all crime increased nearly 4 percent from 2014 to 2015 with murders increasing nearly 11 percent—the largest single year increase since 1971.

In 2016, there were 4,368 shooting victims in Chicago. In Baltimore, homicides reached the second highest per-capita rate ever.

The country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic, with overdose deaths more than tripling between 2010 and 2014. Meanwhile, illegal drugs flood across our southern border and into every city and town in the country, bringing violence, addiction, and misery.

We must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics. We must always remember that these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims. It is important that they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations, and to ensure that their rights are always protected.

These trends cannot continue. It is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and your community. If I am confirmed, we will systematically prosecute criminals who use guns in committing crimes. As United States Attorney, my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions every year. We will partner with state and local law enforcement to take down drug trafficking cartels and dismantle gangs. We will prosecute those who repeatedly violate our borders. It will be my priority to confront these crises vigorously, effectively, and immediately.

Approximately 90 percent of all law enforcement officers are not federal, but local and state. They are the ones on the front lines. They are better educated, trained and equipped than ever before. They are the ones who we rely on to keep our neighborhoods, and playgrounds, and schools safe. But in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the actions of a few bad actors and for allegations about police that were not true. They believe the political leadership of this country abandoned them. They felt they had become targets. Morale has suffered. And last year, while under intense public criticism, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased ten percent over 2015. This is a wake up call. This must not continue.

If we are to be more effective in dealing with rising crime, we will have to rely heavily on local law enforcement to lead the way. To do that, they must know that they are supported. If I am so fortunate as to be confirmed as Attorney General, they can be assured that they will have my support.

As I discussed with many of you in our meetings prior to this hearing, the federal government has an important role to play in this area. We must use the research and expertise of the Department of Justice to help them in developing the most effective and lawful enforcement methods to reduce crime. We must re-establish and strengthen the partnership between federal and local officers to enhance a common and unified effort to reverse the current rising crime trends. I did this as United States Attorney. I worked directly and continuously with state and local law enforcement officials. If confirmed, it will be one of my primary objectives. There are also many things the Department can do to assist state and local law enforcement to strengthen and, in some cases, build the foundation for, relationships with their own communities where policies like community-based policing has been proven to work. I am committed to this effort and to ensuring that the Department of Justice is a unifying force for improving relations between the police in this country and the communities they serve. Make no mistake, positive relations and great communication between the people and police are essential for any good police department.

In recent years, our law enforcement officers also have been called upon to protect our country from the rising threat of terrorism that has reached our shores. If I am confirmed, protecting the American people from the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism will continue to be a top priority of the Department of Justice. We will work diligently to respond to threats, using all lawful means to keep the American people safe from our nation’s enemies. Partnerships will also be vital to achieving much more effective enforcement against cyber threats, and the Department of Justice clearly has a lead role to play in that essential effort. We must honestly assess our vulnerabilities and have a clear plan for defense, as well as offense, when it comes to America’s cybersecurity.

The Department of Justice must never falter in its obligation to protect the civil rights of every American, particularly those who are most vulnerable. A special priority for me in this regard will be aggressive enforcement of our laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible American voter, without hindrance or discrimination, and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

Further, this government must improve its ability to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a federal responsibility. We cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure that if I am confirmed, I will make it a high priority of the Department to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover any monies lost due to fraud or false claims. The Justice Department must remain ever faithful to the Constitution’s promise that our government is one of laws, not of men. It will be my unyielding commitment, if I am confirmed, to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially. The Attorney General must hold everyone, no matter how powerful, accountable. No one is above the law, and no American will be beneath its protection. No powerful special interest will cower this Department.

I want to address personally the fabulous men and women in the Department of Justice. That includes personnel in Main Justice but also the much larger number that faithfully fulfill their responsibility every day. As United States Attorney, we worked together constantly. The federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law officers in the world. I know their integrity and professionalism. I pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. Together we can and will reach for the highest standards and the highest results. It would be the greatest honor to lead these fine public servants.

To my colleagues, I appreciate the time that each of you have taken to meet with me oneon-one. As Senators, we don’t always have the opportunity to sit down and discuss matters face to face and so, for me, this was very helpful. I understand and respect the conviction that you bring to your duties. Even though we are not always in agreement, you have always been understanding and respectful of my positions.

In that regard, if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed, I commit to all of you to that the Department of Justice will be responsive to the Congress and will work with you on your priorities, and provide you with guidance and views where appropriate. The Department will respect your constitutional oversight role, and particularly the critically important separation of powers between the branches.

There is nothing I am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the Department of Justice. I love and venerate that great institution. I hold dear its highest ideals. If God gives me the ability, I will work every day to be worthy of this august office.

You can be absolutely sure that I understand the immense responsibility I would have. I am not naïve. I know the threat that our rising crime and addiction rates pose to the health and safety of our country. I know the threat of terrorism. I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it. I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by the LGBT community. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse.

I understand that a wise and diligent Attorney General, who not only talks but listens, can play a key role in properly focusing the efforts of our nation’s anti-crime apparatus in ways that more effectively enhance public safety and minimize officer misconduct. I know it is essential for police and the communities they serve to have mutual respect.

And, if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed as your Attorney General, you can be assured that I understand the absolute necessity that all of my actions must fall within the bounds of the Constitution and the laws that Congress passes.

While all humans must recognize the limits of their abilities—and I do—I am ready for this job. We will do it right. Your input will be valued. Local law enforcement will be our partners. My many friends in federal law enforcement will be respected.

I have always loved the law. It is the very foundation of our great country. I have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing just that. If confirmed, I will give all my efforts to this goal. I ask only that you do your duty, as you are charged by the Constitution to do it, and by the light that God has given you to do it.

Thank you.

National Security

Updated: Tue, Jan 10th 2017 @ 9:17am EST

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Manuel 7871 of UT's picture

It would be a breathe of fresh air to have a Justice department that will enforce all laws, not choose what they will or will not.

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Martin  1153 of WA's picture

All the Police Agencies Support Sessions

Albeit wild eyed progressives were disrupting the confirmation hearing and lead out by security....

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Richard 5656 of FL's picture

Senator Jeff Sessions reveres our Constitution and is committed to the rule of law. Through a lifetime of service he has demonstrated that he is a man of integrity. He will faithfully perform his duties in accordance with our Constitution. He has the requisite strength to refuse to play political games with our Judicial system. He has proven that he is indeed most worthy of each American's trust to perform faithfully the duties of Attorney General of the United States. He should be confirmed without undue delay.

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Albert 3441 of PA's picture

" No one is above the law, and no American will be beneath its protection."

That is what the American people have been wanting for decades. Although Sen. Sessions doesn't address immigration law enforcement specifically here, that is what his political opponents most fear. They know that an AG who enforces the law fairly and efficiently will end their hopes of transforming millions of illegal aliens into future Demographic Party voters. They know that he will cramp them down to business in a hurry and re-establish the rule of law in our country.

It can't happen soon enough for me.

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George 9871 of GA's picture

It couldn't happen soon enough for all of us, especially those effected most from it and those who have been aware of it for sometime. He'll start serious house cleaning of all the corruption done by previous presidents the last several decades, starting with getting I.C.E. and the Border Patrol to start doing their duties in full extent by detaining all illegals and deporting them and raiding companies that hire and employ illegals and slapping them with massive fines and even closures of the businesses. Indeed it couldn't happen soon enough, Albert.

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Jon 8777 of NY's picture

After each nominee is confirmed with at least a 51 majority but less than 60 vote majority I want to see Senator McConnell stand on the floor of the Senate and repeat these words.

Nominee (____) has been confirmed to fill the position of (_____), and I would like to thank senator harry reid for implementing the nuclear option.

Let that little worm harry reid squirm with each and every successful use of the nuclear option.

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John 4110 of MI's picture

Sessions seems very consistent: the administration should enforce existing law. Durbin's statements that some of the dreamers have accomplished a lot and have only violated immigration and employment laws supports a view that administrations should systematically not enforce laws that many people wish were different.

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Stuart 2772 of CA's picture

As a classical (NOT progressive) liberal I differ with Sen. Sessions on some issues. But having read much of what he has written, met him personally, and heard many of his speeches, I find him to be  one of the smartest, most decent persons in the U.S. Senate. And if he is confirmed, I expect he will prove to be one of the greatest Attorney Generals the U.S. has ever had.

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John 9722 of CA's picture

Has Sessions ENDORSED what NumbersUSA advocates for? Has he EVER MET with any lobbyist FROM "NumbersUSA"? For all the "advocating" of this AG nominee, I would like to see some evidence that he even KNOWS of NumbersUSA's existence. or immigration position! 

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Van 0864 of VA's picture

You must be new to NumbersUSA. Yes, Sen. Sessions and his staff have worked with us on a daily basis for years. He has been our best champion

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Megan 9938 of NE's picture

I just tried to call one of my senators who is on the Judiciary Committee, Sen Ben Sasse (R-NE).  I just got voice mail and a recording that the mail box was full so I couldn't even leave a message.  I hope that means a LOT of people have already called him, sounds like it from NumbersUSA email earlier today.  I will keep trying back.

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Andrew 2056 of NY's picture

A tough but fair immigration policy is a humane policy. Less people will die in the desert trying to reach the United States illegally if they know they will not be allowed to stay.

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Sidney 1534 of CT's picture

His detractors need to understand that being pro-American is not being racist! Diverse American citizens are having their jobs taken by foreign visa guest-workers who are primarily of Indian origin! THAT is racist, and discriminatory, and must be stopped. Jeff Sessions is the most qualified for the job!

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Brian 2786 of TX's picture
I don't like some of his views I want someone who will look at it from both size I think he could have pick a better person then that
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George 9871 of GA's picture

Continue to put pressure on your congressmen, both GOP and Dem to get Sessions all the support. He is one true patriot who has been supporting and protecting the interests of the just the people and the Constitution. He is the one who'll end all Obama's lawless policies that have been supporting and aiding illegal immigration. He'll make a great AG and put a stop to all the corruption that has broken our entire law system.

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Jm  2943 of CO's picture

So NUmbers how did he do?  and Kelly?  (does he have 2 days to?

NO amnesty.  NO work permits.  NO nothing but deportation.

less then 10 days to go!

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Gerry 3912 of CA's picture

These fools that where protesting should be fined , they are most likely paid for agitators !, listening to them was almost sickening , freedom of speech I agree , but NOT in a hearing in a Government building !!

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Mike 1111 of CO's picture

One Set Of Laws For Everybody ...

Period. No Exceptions.

That's what I asked for Christmas from Santa, and it looks like I just might get it with Jeff Sessions !

We must work together to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN !

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Christine 6674 of WA's picture

It is beyond me why enforcing our immigration laws is considered by Dems to be outside the mainstream. We would not be in the mess we are in if our so called leaders had enforced and followed our laws. 

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Todd 6198 of OH's picture

They made that catch phrase up.  Don't lose any sleep over it.  All they do is find unoriginal tags and randomly assign them to various commie control-the-masses-&-get-new-voters agendas.  It's ok.  They now have a very tough row to hoe.

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Jeffry 1720 of CA's picture

I can't wait for sessions to get down to  Business useing all those law that are on the book all the law that obama didn't use