WASHINGTON — In a step his office says is unprecedented, Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) will testify against fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions Wednesday when the Alabama Republican, nominated to become U.S. Attorney General, comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Booker will be one of three African-American lawmakers making a case against Sessions as they try to prevent him from becoming Donald Trump's top law enforcement officer. Sessions' nomination has drawn an outcry from Democrats and the civil rights community, each angered by allegations that he made racially insensitive comments in the past as a federal prosecutor and that he once derided groups such as the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union as "un-American."
"I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the Attorney General combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience," Booker said in a statement issued by his office Monday night. "Sen. Sessions' decades-long record is concerning in a number of ways, from his opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform to his views on bipartisan drug policy reform, from his efforts earlier in his career to deny citizens voting rights to his criticism of the Voting Rights Act, from his failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans to his opposition to common sense, bipartisan immigration reform. The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty."
Booker will speak out against Sessions alongside Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), a civil rights icon who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D., La.), executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Booker's office.
Despite Democratic opposition, however, Sessions is widely expected to win confirmation from the Republican-controlled Senate, where many of his colleagues — including moderates — have praised his integrity and dismissed any accusations of racism. Trump, in nominating Sessions, called him a "world class legal mind." Three African-American supporters (though not members of Congress) are expected to testify on Sessions' behalf.
Sessions has drawn some of the most fierce criticism of any of Trump's nominees. He was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986, with critics citing his aggressive prosecution of black voting rights activists along with accusations of making racially-tinged comments as a prosecutor in Alabama.
Booker's office, citing the Senate historian, said there is no record of a senator testifying against a fellow senator at a confirmation hearing. The 100-member institution is notoriously chummy, a fact that leads many analysts to believe that Sessions will win confirmation.
Booker is an outspoken supporter of both immigration reform and reforms to ease criminal penalties for non-violent crimes, two ideas Sessions has opposed in compiling one of the Senate's most conservative records. Booker comes from a family with a history of activism: his parents took part in a sting to help integrate a North Jersey suburb where realtors refused to sell to African-Americans.