New US Attorney General faces rough ride

Senator Jeff Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 after the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony that he made racist remarks.

US President-elect, Donald Trump’s pick to be the new attorney general is poised to get a rough ride when he appears before US senators.

Sixty-nine year old Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions will provide answers to questions about his past record on civil rights at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats will also challenge him over his tough immigration stance. But they “do not have the power to block his nomination because Republicans control the Senate.’’

All the president’s Cabinet appointments are subjected to a vote in the Senate, where they can be approved by a simple majority.

Appointments cannot be confirmed until after Mr Trump’s inauguration on January 20. But first Mr Sessions must face questions on Tuesday and Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Most conservative member
The Alabama politician, with 20 years under his belt in the Senate, is known as one of the most conservative members of the upper chamber.

Mr Sessions was also accused of calling a black assistant US attorney “boy” and telling him to be careful about how he spoke to “white folks”. But he denied.

He admitted saying that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was “un-American” and “communist-inspired”.

Republicans who have known Mr Sessions and worked with him deny he is a racist. Some also have pointed out he supported the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights heroine, Rosa Parks.

Mr Sessions opposed bipartisan efforts to give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, and wants to limit entry to the US, both legal and illegal.

He was one of the few Republicans to Mr Trump’s defence after he proposed a temporary ban on Muslims’ entry in the US.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Sessions had been “more anti-immigration than just about any other single member of Congress.”

Like many Republicans, he has opposed the LGBT-rights movement and in particular the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

In 2000 and 2009 he voted against legislation which aims to expand the definition of a hate crime.

Women’s rights will also feature at the hearing.

Domestic violence
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said he “intends to buttress how Mr Sessions has opposed laws to curb domestic violence and sexual assault.’’

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is not on the committee, said he would oppose the nomination because Mr Sessions has not indicated any support for programmes to fund community policing.

Cries of “Lock her up” rang out at rallies during Mr Trump’s campaign, by supporters angry over Mrs Clinton’s private email use.

Mr Trump vowed to get the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. But he said “after winning the election that he would drop that pledge.’’

The hearings
Two days will be used to try to depict Mr Sessions as extreme, getting him to defend past statements and actions.

They may also get him to defend some of Mr Trump’s controversial statements.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker has said he would testify against Mr Sessions on Wednesday, in what is thought to be an unprecedented move.

“The immense power of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience,” the New Jersey senator, said.

Immigration reform
Mr Booker pointed to the Alabama senator’s opposition to immigration reform, his criticism of the Voting Rights Act and his “failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans.”

Civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis may also testify.

BBC/Mercy Chukwudiebere