Very little mystery surrounds Cabinet picks by incoming presidents as they face confirmation by the U.S. Senate. By the time Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, chosen by Trump for attorney general, got to the hearing room Tuesday, his background and the issues some believe disqualify him for the job were well-known. Even when Sessions walked in to the hearing room, a couple of demonstrators dressed as Ku Klux Klan members were escorted out.
That referenced what some Democratic senators, and other Sessions critics, regard as his weak record on civil rights. The former Alabama attorney general also is said to be a threat to Roe v. Wade, to civil liberties protections, to women’s rights. He was alleged to have called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American” long ago, which helped result in his rejection for a federal judgeship in 1986.
Sessions will likely be confirmed as attorney general under President Donald Trump. Sessions had what was Trump’s main requirement for the post — he was one of the controversial GOP nominee’s earliest and most prominent supporters.
Sessions will weather his confirmation hearing despite some pointed criticism, however, because the Senate almost never rejects one of its own.
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But Republicans are in charge now of the legislative branch of government, and with Trump’s expected appointment of a conservative Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, the GOP will after Jan. 20 be in philosophical control of all three branches.
While Sessions may be the most contentious of Trump’s nominees, also troubling is what Democrats have said is the rush to confirm Cabinet nominees despite incomplete vetting of their financial interests and ethics reviews.
That raises suspicions, of course, because most of Trump’s nominees are people of vast wealth who probably aren’t crazy about their financial holdings being disclosed. And ethics reviews are important because the people must be assured by more than comforting words from the president-elect that his choices are people with absolute records of personal and professional integrity.
But that’s foolish on his part, because Washington is a place where scrutiny of public officials is intense, and should Cabinet nominees become Cabinet members — and all probably will — the looks at their professional and personal lives will not stop once they’re in office. Something missed now — a questionable business deal, an inflammatory statement — might surface later, causing embarrassment for a Trump administration and for Trump himself.