Appearances of racism have haunted President Donald J. Trump since the very day he announced his intention to seek the American presidency. During his campaign and even more during his tenure as president, Trump has either allied himself with or spoken admiringly about people who have deep ties to white nationalism and Neo-Nazi beliefs, such as political strategist Steve Bannon and Sabastian Gorka.
The appearance of racism in the Trump political orbit gained credence when the president appointed Alabama Senator Jeff Session as Attorney General of the United States. Sessions’ political career has always been dogged by accusations of racism.
Sessions and Shadow of Racism
For example, in 1986, Sessions was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama when President Ronald Reagan nominated the 39-year-old prosecutor to a federal judgeship. That nomination was derailed when credible evidence surfaced that Sessions had a history of using the n-word and held the Ku Klux Klan in high esteem until he learned the race-hating group “smoked marijuana.”
And throughout his career as a U.S. Senator, Sessions either sponsored or supported legislation that was anti-civil rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gay rights. As senator and attorney general, he has advocated more prisons, harsher sentences for drug offenders, and stiffer mandatory minimum sentences for all offenses. In a word, the Attorney General wants to incarcerate more black people, immigrants, and other minority groups like Hispanics and Muslims.
These serious charges are supported by the public record. Sessions has been the single most influential force in the Trump administration’s selection of U.S. attorneys across the country.
Diversity Absent in Trump Appointments
As of November 20, 2017, the Trump administration had nominated 57 U.S. attorneys to fill the available 94 U.S. Attorney positions, most of who have been confirmed by a simple voice vote in the U.S. Senate. Only one is black and just three are women.
That is exactly the way AG Sessions wants his Justice Department to be: a white male dominated institution. At a November 14 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Sessions told the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cedric Richmond (D-La), that he did not “have a senior staff member at this time that’s an African American.”
And next year, and the year after, if his history is a guide, the U.S. Attorney will not have an African American in his inner circle within the Justice Department.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonprofit group that promotes justice for racial and ethnic groups. Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the group, recently told Newsweek that “these [U.S. attorney] positions are critical within the criminal justice system. We’re … seeing a complete abandonment of a commitment to diversity and a complete failure to think about diversity as one among a number of factors in identifying nominees for critical federal positions.”
Kristen also told the newsmagazine that under the Obama administration 13 percent of the U.S. attorneys were African American or Latino.
“Under the Obama administration, we saw some efforts to address the historic underrepresentation of African-Americans, Latinos and women in critical positions in the justice system,” she said. “Here, we see this administration turning the clock back in every respect.”
Attorney General Sessions wants a white American justice system and a predominantly black prison system.
Federal Court Appointments Weak Under Trump
This can also be seen in Trump’s appointments to federal judgeships, a process in which the attorney general also plays a significant role. As of mid-November, the president had nominated 58 attorneys for federal judgeships, 91 percent of whom are white.
There is simply no place for African-Americans in the Trump/Sessions view of criminal justice in America – except, of course, in the private prisons the administration is advocating a greater use of. Justice Department watchdog groups like the People for the American Way, the National Women’s Law Center, Lambda Legal, Alliance for Justice, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have all been highly critical of the near total lack of diversity in the Trump administration’s appointments of U.S. attorneys as well as federal judgeships.
Attorney General Sessions, and others in the Trump administration responsible for vetting U.S. Attorney and federal judicial appointments, appear to operate with a three-prong criterion: 1) the nominee must preferably be white, 2) must share the racial exclusivity of the president, and 3) must be willing to goose-step to the orders of the attorney general and/or the president.
Professional qualifications are not essential: at least four of the individuals nominated for federal judgeships by Trump received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, one of whom had never tried a case despite being a former assistant U.S. Attorney. Another, Matthew Petersen, a Trump nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, failed to demonstrate a basic understanding of federal court procedures and couldn’t answer basic questions illustrating his understanding of a “motion in limine.”
Political Ideology Threatens Criminal Justice System
The nation’s criminal justice system is in mortal danger inasmuch as political ideology, not equality and fairness, will determine the quality of justice dispensed under the Trump administration.
The four U.S. Attorneys for the State of Texas are:
- Ryan Patrick; U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Texas. The son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a former Harris County state court judge—a position he was appointed to by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2012 and lost to Democrat Robert Johnson in 2016.
- Joseph Brown: U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Texas. Former Grayson County District Attorney. He served in various capacities in Grayson County over the past two decades.
- Erin Nealy Cox: – U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. She had previously worked in the U.S. Attorney’s and specialized in the prosecution of cybercrimes. She also clerked for former Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Henry Politz whose judicial career fell on hard times after it was disclosed that he had a peculiar relationship with a serial pedophile Catholic priest named Gilbert Gauthe.
- John Bash – U.S. Attorney for Western District of Texas. Bash was a special assistant in Trump’s White House and once clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
There is no evidence, or any reason to believe at this juncture, that these four individuals will not only uphold but respect the rule of law toward all the criminal defendants they encounter. Whatever political ideology they have should, and must be, left outside the federal building when the report to work each morning. Their primary responsibility is to serve the interest of justice, not the racial beliefs of Attorney General Sessions nor the political ambitions of President Donald Trump.