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Leading Democrats Liked Jeff Sessions Before They Hated Him

Leading Democrats were swift to denounce Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general in November, though many have lavished praise on him in the past.

Sessions, who served as a state attorney general prior to his election to the Senate in 1998, has been dogged by allegations of racism stemming from his tenure as U.S. attorney in Alabama. Critics charge he failed to pursue civil rights cases with a prosecutor’s seriousness and ardor, while others point to rumors of racist remarks made in private.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez said in a statement when Sessions was nominated. “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions.” (VIDEO: Biden On Jeff Sessions: ‘The President Should Get The Person That They Want’)

While Democrats posture for a bruising confirmation battle, some of his critics-come-lately have lavished praise on the senator in the past. While all acknowledge the ideological gulf between them, prominent Democrats have commended a colleague they characterize as “fair,” “welcoming,” and “a gentleman.”

Incoming Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer:

“We are from different parts of the country. We are different ideologically. But we work together well, and it is a tribute to Jeff. He is straightforward and fair, and I very much appreciate that all the time.”
April 17, 2002

“Well, I want to sincerely thank my colleague, Jeff Sessions. We are from different parts of the country, and not only different parties, but clearly different ideologies, but he is always a gentleman.”
Sept. 24, 2002

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, outgoing ranking member on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Senator Sessions who is actually wonderful to work with.”
July 1, 2010

Secretary of Labor and former assistant attorney general for civil rights Tom Perez:

“Senator Sessions, I have always had great respect for you and appreciate the respect you accorded me dating back to 1989.”
April 20, 2010

“My first travel was to Mobile, Alabama, where we were treated with great dignity by then-U.S. Attorney and now Senator Jeff Sessions, the first trial that I participated in, and he was a wonderfully welcoming person, a wonderfully welcoming U.S. Attorney, and I am very grateful for that work.”
April 29, 2009

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who has not taken a public position on the appointment, characterized Sessions as a “great U.S. attorney” during a hearing in 2009.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley to delay confirmation hearings while committee staff scrutinize the 150,000 pages of documents Sessions furnished for the committee’s review. She further argues he has not completed a required questionnaire. In turn, Republicans accused committee Democrats of stalling the nomination and indicated hearings would proceed as scheduled.

“Sen Sessions,” Grassley wrote to Feinstein, “is well known to all of us.”

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