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Civil rights groups, lawyers voice opposition ahead of Sessions' attorney general confirmation

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) talks with reporters. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A group of diverse bar associations asked Monday to delay the confirmation hearing of President-elect Donald Trump's attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the coalition of lawyers asked for a delay in Sessions' confirmation due to a perceived lack of transparency — especially pertaining to his history with civil rights.

Signed by the heads of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the National LGBT Bar Association, the letter asks for Sessions' hearing to be postponed until he "has sufficiently answered all the requests in the Senate Judiciary Questionnaire."

"Civil rights organizations and Senators on your Committee have pointed out that despite providing a supplement to his SJQ ... Senator Sessions continues to omit important information about his record in elected and appointed office," the letter states, broadly requesting more information on awards he has received and clarification given on comments he made as Alabama's attorney general and during his first term as a U.S. senator.

Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due in part to racial comments he has made. His selection has also sparked controversy because of his views on immigration.

"He has been more anti-immigration than just about any other single member of Congress," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) told Time. "And in the past, Senator Sessions has been no friend to the Voting Rights Act. The attorney general is the protector of voting rights."

The American Civil Liberties Union's new National Legal Director, David Cole, will testify at Sessions' hearing on Jan. 11 — an unprecedented move by the nonprofit organization, an ACLU spokesperson told TheBlaze Monday.

In a press release confirming Cole's role at the hearing, the ACLU stated:

The ACLU is nonpartisan, and as a matter of longstanding policy does not support or oppose nominees for federal office. As a result, the ACLU rarely testifies in confirmation hearings. However, the organization is taking the extraordinary step of testifying in this hearing because Sen. Sessions’ record raises significant, serious questions about his hostility to civil rights and civil liberties. The ACLU believes he must satisfactorily answer questions on these issues before a confirmation vote proceeds.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Cornell William Brooks will also testify in opposition of Sessions during the hearing. The NAACP staged protests in recent weeks to oppose Sessions' nomination.

Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, also wrote to Grassley Monday to urge him not to move forward with Session's Cabinet appointment.

Khan wrote:

Sadly, Mr. Sessions has not demonstrated a greater understanding that the right to vote should transcend partisan interests. He has harshly criticized the national Voting Rights Act, which as Attorney General he would be charged with enforcing, and supported states that have done away with procedures designed to help people vote. There is no constitutional principle or American value that is strengthened by making it harder for some Americans, especially those who are already disadvantaged, to exercise their right to vote.

Another threat to the American ideal is violence and intimidation directed against ethnic and religious minorities. There have been hundreds of such incidents in the weeks since the presidential election. The bigotry at the root of these incidents is a threat to individual lives and families and to a society grounded in the constitutional values of equality and pluralism. It is shocking to even consider that at this very moment our Department of Justice would be led by someone who has cultivated close relationships with organizations that promote racial and religious divineness and hostility toward immigrants, as Mr. Sessions has.

And earlier this month, a group of more than 1,100 law professors sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition of Sessions as attorney general.

The diverse coalition of bar assertions also noted Monday the delay in Attorney General Loretta Lynch's confirmation — an example to show precedent for a delay in Session's confirmation.

"We urge you to avoid the appearance of a double standard and heed the calls of members of your own Committee to give them [sufficient] time to review Senator Sessions' extensive record, once completed," it says.

Lynch was confirmed by the Senate in April 2015 after a five month delay.

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