Senate panel advances Trump’s nominee for attorney general

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By Julia Edwards Ainsley and Julia Harte

<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted on
Tuesday to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general of
the United States, sending President Donald Trump’s pick to be
the nation’s top law enforcement officer to the full Senate for
a final vote.

The role got a higher profile on Monday night when the
Republican president promptly fired acting Attorney General
Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his executive order
temporarily banning all refugees and travelers from seven
predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration.

Sessions, a 70-year-old senator from Alabama and a close
Trump ally since the early days of his presidential campaign,
was likely to support the executive order. One of his former
staffers, Stephen Miller, helped shape the document from the
White House.

Sessions’ allegiance to Trump, his hard-line immigration
positions and civil rights record came under scrutiny during his
10-1/2-hour hearing before the committee on Jan. 10.

Trump’s Justice Department is likely to operate in sharp
contrast to the agency under Obama.

Civil rights groups say the choices Trump has made in his
appointments to leadership roles at the department show that the
agency is preparing to neglect or even weaken civil rights
protections.

Hours after Trump’s inauguration, the administration
appointed Thomas Wheeler and John Gore to serve as interim
leaders in the department’s Civil Rights Division.

Wheeler, the current acting head of the division, defended
in private practice a school that confiscated a student’s breast
cancer awareness bracelet for being “inappropriate;” a public
school that held a Christmas show in which Bible excerpts were
read and religious songs were sung; and the Walgreens drugstore
chain in a case in which a pharmacist looked up the birth
control records of a customer and shared them with the
customer’s ex-boyfriend.

Gore, who will serve as deputy assistant attorney general in
charge of voting rights and employment litigation, helped defend
state election redistricting plans that were challenged on
grounds that they violated the Voting Rights Act.



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