On Wednesday, the United States Senate voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as the 84th U.S. Attorney General. The confirmation process was lengthy and drawn-out, and put on display – for all Americans to see – the Senate Democrats digging in their heels in a futile attempt to block President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
Why was the left so hysterical about this nomination, in particular? Despite all of the personal attacks leveled against Jeff Sessions, the Democrats’ chief objections to Jeff Sessions stem from their grave misunderstanding of the role of attorney general and the purpose of the Justice Department as a whole.
Liberals who cheered for years as President Obama’s two attorneys general, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, ignored the Constitution and rule of law in pursuit of enacting a liberal agenda, are now terrified that someone who does not share their policy views is taking the helm of the runaway Justice Department that has, for years, run roughshod over the Constitution.
But liberals’ fears are unfounded because Jeff Sessions emphatically does not share the Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch view of the Justice Department’s purpose. This, of course, is good news for all Americans, whether conservative or liberal or anywhere in between.
Whereas Attorney General Sessions’ two immediate predecessors treated the Constitution as an afterthought, Sessions has already expressed his unswerving commitment to the Constitution as the sole arbiter of appropriate actions for the attorney general. During his confirmation process, then-Senator Sessions offered a concise, but powerful, explanation of what the role of attorney general is: “You simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way, and have to be able to say ‘no’ [to the president].”
Being able to say “no” to the president is an area where both Lynch and Holder faltered, as they proved ardent implementers of President Obama’s political agenda, but were unwilling or unable to uphold their oaths of office and put the brakes on any parts of the Obama administration’s political agenda that were outside of the Constitution’s limits.
President Obama and his allies, who were in perpetual campaign mode, transformed the Justice Department into a political weapon that selectively and unequally applied the law, always with an eye toward a political objective.
What makes a good attorney general, in many cases, is not what he or she does, but very often what the attorney general does not do. There is a great deal of talk right now about what Attorney General Sessions will do, or what he could do in this new position. But for conservatives, including those of us who have spent the last few months working hard to ensure he would be confirmed to this new post, one of the most refreshing things about Jeff Sessions’ term as attorney general may well be what he has no intention of doing and what he will not pursue, which will contrast starkly with the two previous attorneys general.
In contrast to Holder and Lynch, Sessions will not put politics above the rule of law. On Eric Holder’s watch, the Justice Department was caught spying on both the Associated Press and Fox News. Also during Mr. Holder’s tenure, the Justice Department covered up the Fort Hood massacre by claiming the incident was an example of “workplace violence” rather than an act of terrorism. In each instance, the Justice Department was driven by a political agenda, rather than by the rule of law.
President Obama’s attorneys general also shared an “end-result” oriented approach to the law, which they both used to justify mangling the Constitution’s safeguards on liberty. The Justice Department’s mishandling of ObamaCare, and the way it argued that the healthcare law’s individual mandate was, at times, a “tax,” while at other times a “penalty” in order to dodge the plain text of the Constitution, sheds light on how the Obama Justice Department so contemptuously regarded the Constitution’s plain-language protections on individual liberty. Americans can sigh in relief that Attorney General has no such “result-oriented” approach to the law, but instead believes the rule of law can stand on its own.
Attorneys General Holder and Lynch both believed that the Justice Department is a law unto itself, accountable to no other institutions. This cavalier attitude could be seen when the Justice Department resolutely refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or single-handedly determined that states could not check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being here illegally and sued the state of Arizona for, of all things!, wanting to uphold our nation’s immigration laws. Here, too, Sessions holds the appropriate view that the attorney general is an enforcer of our nation’s laws – not the sole arbiter of what the laws should be.
These are, of course, only a few examples of where the Obama Justice Department engaged in rogue behavior, politicizing the department and effectively rewriting existing laws on the books. And these are only a few areas where Sessions will be a breath of fresh air at the Justice Department as he rejects his predecessors’ lawlessness.
As the president and co-founder of the nation’s largest grassroots tea party organization, I am pleased that the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, and Tea Party Patriots looks forward to seeing the rule-of-law-centered reforms he enacts in the coming months.
Congratulations to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and thank you, President Trump, for nominating someone whose commitment to the Constitution will guide everything he does – and, significantly, does not do – in his role as Attorney General.
Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and president of Tea Party Patriots.