Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) suggested at Tuesday's Attorney General confirmation hearing that he may be open to softening consent decrees hammered out by the Obama administration with police departments accused of discriminatory or otherwise illegal policing. He said that police departments "often feel forced to agree to a consent decree just to remove that stigma and sometimes there are difficulties there."
The comment was one of a number in which Sessions, during what will be his only day of testimony, hinted that he intended to take the Justice Department in a different direction from the current administration. For instance, in a discussion about the Obama administration's attitude of letting states experiment with marijuana legalization, Sessions said, "One obvious concern is that Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state and distribution of it an illegal act."
Much of the nine-and-a-half-hour questioning of Sessions by his Judiciary Committee peers focused on controversial comments that he had made previously, as well as some of the stances that President-elect Donald Trump took during the presidential campaign.
Sessions was forced to clarify comments he made during the presidential campaign that grabbing someone by the pussy -- as Donald Trump described doing on a 2005 Access Hollywood tape -- did not qualify as sexual assault. He also said he would recuse himself of investigations involving Hillary Clinton controversies that came up during her presidential race against Trump. He vowed to follow the Supreme Court's decisions on same-sex marriage and abortion, even though he had previously criticized the rulings. He also dodged a question about whether he believe Russia was behind election-related hacking by saying he had not done any "research" into the matter. Later he conceded that he had "no reason to doubt" the report by the U.S. intelligence community that found that Russia, through cyberattacks and other methods, sought to influence the presidential campaign.
Sessions said he opposed banning Muslims as a religious group, but added that he believed religious views should be considered when vetting immigrants if those views were "inamicable to the public safety of the United States."
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