Confirmation hearings continued late into the afternoon for President-elect Donald Trump's Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Earlier on Tuesday, Sessions faced intense questioning from colleague Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), including accusations that Sessions lied about his record on a Senate questionnaire, as well as in some media appearances.
Questioning his civil rights record, Franken hammered Sessions on whether he really prosecuted the 20 or 30 desegregation cases he previously claimed in a 2009 interview, citing an op-ed written by DOJ attorneys which claimed Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them.
Sessions gave a detailed answer, giving examples, and explained the exact number may have been different because his level of involvement in the cases varied. Franken then launched into an in-depth argument against Sessions, insinuating that he was misrepresenting his level of involvement in the cases, as well as cases he identified on his Senate questionnaire as being cases that he was significantly involved in.
Later in the day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took exception to Franken's criticism of Sessions civil rights record, and said Franken was simply trying to undermine Sessions and insinuate that Sessions had misrepresented his record.
"It is unfortunate to see members of this body impugn the integrity of a fellow senator with whom we have served for years," Cruz said. "It is particularly unfortunate when that attempt is not backed up by fact."
Cruz went on to question the validity of Franken's accusations, and added, "I support Senator Sessions for attorney general for the very reason that many vehemently oppose him. Namely, I — and they — know that Sessions will enforce the law."
"The fact that this is controversial tells you all you need to know about the sorry intellectual state of our country’s elites, especially in the legal academy and federal bureaucracies. Senator Sessions believes in the foundational idea that we are governed by objectively knowable, written rules, and that we should not be subject to the interpretive whims of unelected, power-hungry bureaucrats. Sessions will instill this belief at the Department of Justice," Cruz continued.
Cruz pointed out that the op-ed relied upon by Franken for his attack was written by an attorney, Gary Hebert, who had previously admitted to misstatements of fact during testimony before a Senate committee.
Franken later responded, characterizing his attack on Sessions' honesty as merely doing his job by questioning the record of a nominee. He did not ask Sessions any further direct questions about his record or give him an opportunity to respond.