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Trump’s Cabinet Nominees’ Confirmation Hearings Started off With Nonstop Protests. Here’s Why.


This week, the frenzy of confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet begins. There’s been a huge amount of criticism aimed at the unprecedented rush job, with four of the nine nominees having yet to submit their financial reports to the Office of Government Ethics. (Remember that pesky group the GOP tried to tell us it doesn’t need anymore?) This means there’s no transparency in the potential conflicts of interest for these nominees, two of whom are billionaires with no previous government experience. The OGE has called this “enormously concerning,” while John Kerry said the transition process is “going pretty smoothly because there’s not an enormous amount of it. ”

This is, in brief, terrifying.

But in the midst of these incredible breaches of ethics and established procedure, at least there are a whole lot of Americans who aren’t willing to watch their country go down without a fight. The confirmation hearings started Tuesday morning with Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, and the multi-hour hearing has been plagued by protests.

The biggest disruption came from Code Pink protestors dressed in KKK robes, alongside others dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Over the course of the hearing, more protestors were removed, yelling “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” a chant that has been repeated by protestors throughout the day.

Another Code Pink protestor was removed for laughing at the discussion of Sessions’ civil rights record.

I’m guessing these were confiscated from protestors, rather than supplied to them by the police, but we can dream, right?

It’s not just outside protestors showing their dissent, either. You may remember, last week, six NAACP members, including the organization’s president and CEO, were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing for staging a sit-in at Sessions’ office, demanding he withdraw from consideration.

Another protest is happening in his office at this very moment.

1,400 law professors signed a letter protesting his appointment.

And, in another unprecedented move, Senator Cory Booker is set to testify against Sessions before the Judiciary Committee. No sitting senator has ever testified against another seeking a cabinet position. A number of U.S. Representatives will also testify, including legendary civil rights activist John Lewis.

So what’s behind all the protests of Sessions? Well, if you’re not already aware of his terrifying history, here’s a quick primer:

Here are just a few highlights:

—He’s voted against hate crime bills, calling them “thought crimes.”

—He doesn’t believe in climate change. In 2015, he told the EPA, “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”

—He wants to respark the war on drugs, starting with marijuana. He reportedly once said he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”

—His voting record on women’s rights issues is horrific. To name just a few examples, he has repeatedly voted against access and funding for abortion services and he opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

—He has opposed any sort of comprehensive immigration reform, and has opposed efforts to create pathways to citizenship. His views on Muslim immigration are, as you might expect, distressingly regressive as well.

—Maybe most damning, though, is his long history with civil rights. He called the gutting of the Voting Rights Act “good news for the South” and in 2013 said that in the South “people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.” Multiple U.S. courts, by the way, disagreed. He has called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” and were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

—In 1986, he was denied a federal judgeship on the basis of his racist remarks. Senator Ted Kennedy called him “a throwback to a shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It’s inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a United States federal judge.”

Meanwhile, today’s hearing has been full of strange talk, like Sessions claiming that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling “violated the constitution,” which is nonsense, because that’s exactly what the Supreme Court gets to decide. When talking about protecting voting rights in his new role, he was careful to say he’d protect all “eligible” voters—not exactly comforting stuff.

Sessions’ hearing will last through Wednesday and is streaming live if you want to see that horror show for yourself. The NAACP has also made it incredibly easy to voice your opposition, if you do happen to feel opposed. We’re in the final days here before Trump takes office, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to make a difference.

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.

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