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Atty. Gen. Sessions fields Democrats' questions on treatment of African Americans at Department of Justice

While Russia has garnered most of the attention in Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrats also have questioned the Justice Department's treatment of African Americans.

When Democrats repeatedly raised questions about voter identification laws, which critics argue disenfranchise black and Latino voters, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions defended the use of such laws as appropriate.

He also defended the department's record in prosecuting drug sellers. Democrats, and some Republicans, have long argued that prosecutors have been far tougher on African Americans accused in drug crimes than white Americans.

Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, a Democrat who is African American, challenged Sessions on the subject of an FBI report that said "black identity extremists" were intent on killing law enforcement officers.

Bass suggested the report, which was made public in October by Foreign Policy magazine, was racially biased because it cited only organizations active decades ago. Sessions appeared unaware of the details of the FBI report.

"It would be interesting to see the conclusion of that report, but I'm aware there are groups that do have extra commitment to their racial identity," he said.

He confirmed that the Justice Department had no parallel report on actions by whites motivated by racial identity, such as the armed white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville, Va., in August, chanting that Jews should be removed from the country.

When Bass then named several white supremacist groups now active, Session replied that "there are racial identity white movements ... for sure." 

But he said that he would not name them except in writing, so that he was not relying on memory.

Later, under questioning by Rep. Cedric Richmond, an African American Democrat from Louisiana, Sessions confirmed that he had not hired African American aides.

"I do not have a senior staff member at this time that is African American," Sessions said.

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