Sessions Can’t Say If He Thinks Black Lives Matter Is An ‘Extremist Group’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was not aware of the largely-white extremist group “sovereign citizens” targeting law enforcement officials, but said that he believed black extremist groups had, even though he couldn’t name one such group off the top of his head during a House Judiciary hearing Tuesday.

Sessions was being grilled by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) about an internal report the Justice Department issued in August in which the FBI said “black identity extremists” had engaged in “in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” She asked him if he considered Black Lives Matter an extremist group.

“I’m not able to comment on that. I have not so declared it,” Sessions said.

Sessions said he had not read the Justice Department report and he was not sure who ordered it.  He did say he knew of “some of the alleged targeting of officers by certain groups.”

“It will be interesting to see the conclusions of that report, but I am aware that there are groups that do have an extraordinary commitment to their racial identity,” Sessions said. “Some have transformed themselves even into violent activists.”

Bass would later ask Sessions if he could name a black identity group from today that targeted law enforcement, as opposed to the groups from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s named in the August report.

“I believe I could, but I would want to be —to confirm that and submit it to you in writing. I believe we had within the last year or so four police officers killed by a group that some have described as extremists,” Sessions said. Bass said there were a “couple” of incidences of African Americans killing police officers, but that they were not associated with any black identity groups.

Bass also questioned Sessions about white extremist groups. Sessions said he was not aware of any FBI reports on white extremist groups targeting law enforcement. (The FBI published a report on the sovereign citizen movement’s pattern of violence in 2011.)

Bass asked Sessions specifically about the sovereign citizens movement, which the FBI said was related to the killings of six police officers since 2000. She asked if he was aware their targeting and killing of police officers.

I’m not aware of all their crimes, but I know they are known to have violent tendencies,” he said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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