The 7 Things You Need To Know About What Happened Today At Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Hearing

The Attorney General nominee was greeted by protesters dressed as members of the KKK.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings for Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump’s pick for Attorney General.

Protesters started interrupting before it began, and continued throughout the proceedings—with two demonstrators dressed in KKK robes escorted from the room right as Sessions walked in.

A woman with Code Pink was also removed after shouting that Sessions was “evil,” while another protestor called the Alabama senator “a racist.”

Protestors weren’t the only ones expressing their concerns: David Cole, legal director for the ACLU, said the Attorney General “has a particular responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable—like immigrants, gays and lesbians, women—and Sen. Sessions has frankly been insensitive to or hostile to all of these groups.”

Here are 7 things you need to know about the first part of Sessions’ confirmation hearing today.

  1. Sessions addressed his alleged racism.

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: Protesters wearing white sheets shout at Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as he arrives for his confirmation hearing to be the U.S. attorney general Senate Judiciary Committee in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions was one of the first members of Congress to endorse and support President-elect Donald Trump, who nominated him for Attorney General. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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    In 1986, Sessions became the second nominee in 50 years to be rejected from a federal judgeship for allegedly making racist remarks, including calling the NAACP “un-American,” referring to a black subordinate as “boy,” and joking that he thought Ku Klux Klan members were “okay,” until he learned that they smoked marijuana.

    Sessions also attempted to prosecute three black Alabama community activists for voter fraud because of their outreach efforts. One of the defense lawyers from that case wrote a scathing letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying Sessions’ poor judgment in prosecuting that case disqualified him to act as the highest prosecutor in the nation.

    Today, Sessions paused during his prepared opening remarks to address these allegations head on.

    “I abhor the Klan and its hateful ideology,” he said said. “I never declared the NAACP was un-American.” Later, he stated, “I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it. We must continue to move forward and never back.”

  2. He softened his stance on abortion—sort of.

    UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice protesters shout across the street to Pro-life protesters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. The annual March for Life went ahead as planned despite the blizzard warnings issued for the DC area. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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    Sessions is a vocal opponent of a woman’s right to choose, voting against a resolution expressing support of Roe v. Wade, and for a ban on abortions after the 20th week. He also voted to defund Planned Parenthood and opposes protections against anti-abortion clinic violence.

    During Tuesday’s hearing, Sessions said he would respect Roe v. Wade, even though he disagrees with it. When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked about his calling Roe v. Wade a “colossal” mistake, he responded, “I believe it violated the Constitution,” but added, “It is the law of the land, it has been settled for some time… I will respect it and follow it.”

  3. He backpedaled on his stance on marriage equality.

    A gay couple, John and Stuart from California, married from 28 years, pose outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to wed -- a potentially historic decision that could see same-sex marriage recognized nationwide. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Sessions’ record on LGBT rights is far from stellar: In 1996, he fought to block the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference from meeting at the University of Alabama, using a state law that banned schools from funding any group that promotes “actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.”

    When the university demurred, he announced he was considering a court order to stop the event. (Days later, a federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional.)

    After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of federal marriage equality in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, Sessions called it an “effort to secularize [this country], by force and intimidation.”

    But in his hearing, he said, “The Supreme Court has ruled … The dissents dissented vigorously, but it was 5-4 and … I will follow that decision.”

    In his opening remarks, he also claimed, to “understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our LGBT community” and promised that “statutes protecting their civil rights and their safety are fully enforced.”

  4. He doesn’t think he ever shouted for Hillary Clinton to be “locked up.”

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    When asked by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse whether he ever chanted “Lock her up,” a common refrain at Trump rallies, Sessions responded, “No, I did not. I don’t think. I heard it, at rallies and so forth—sometimes I think, humorously done.”

    Later, he added, “I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from questions involving those kinds of investigations involving Secretary Clinton that were raised during the campaign and could be otherwise connected to it. I believe that would be best for the country because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute.”

  5. He addressed police brutality, sort of.

    CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30: Protesters march through various neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA on November 30, 2016 at midnight during a demonstration following the District Attorney exonerates the police officer involved in the Keith Scott killing, 43, shot and killed by police officers, at an apartment complex near UNC Charlotte. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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    In his opening remarks, Sessions vaguely addressed issues involving police violence, saying he wanted to “focusing the efforts of our nation’s anti-crime apparatus in ways that more effectively enhance public safety and minimize officer misconduct.”

    “It is essential,” he added, “for police and the communities they serve to have mutual respect.”

    Later, though, he doubled down on the importance of proactive law enforcement, stating, “it is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and your community.” He claimed the rise in violent crime in Chicago and other larger cities was not an anomaly, “but the beginning of a dangerous trend.”

  6. He backpedaled on banning Muslims.

    Amani Ramouni, 27, leaves the International Islamic Academy with her son Shadi, 3, in Detroit on November 9, 2016. This Detroit suburb is home to one of the biggest populations of Muslims and Arabs in the United States, and Musid was among many in her community trying to make sense of the brash Republican's election. Across the country, Muslim Americans are now wondering what a Trump presidency might mean, said Hazem Bata, head of the Islamic Society of North America, a national advocacy group. / AFP / Nova SAFO (Photo credit should read NOVA SAFO/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Asked whether or not he supports Trump’s idea to ban Muslims from entering the country, Sessions replied, “I believe the President-elect has subsequent to that statement made clear that he believes the focus should be on individuals coming from countries that have histories of terrorism, and he’s also stated that his policy and what he’d suggest is strong vetting.”

    Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy then asked why Sessions had voted against a Senate resolution that opposed using religion as a basis for denying entry into the US.

    “Many people do have religious views that are inimical to the values of the United States,” Sessions responded, adding that he opposed the resolution because it ruled out considering religion at all. “I have no belief… that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States. We have great Muslim citizens who have contributed in so many ways.”

  7. Sessions refused to say whether he believes Russia influenced the U.S. election.

    VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - NOVEMBER 23: A woman walks past a mural showing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) blowing marijuana smoke into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the wall of a bar-b-que restaurant on November 23, 2016 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Many people in the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are concerned that Russia, because Trump has expressed both admiration for Putin and doubt over defending NATO member states, will be emboldened to intervene militarily in the Baltics. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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    The senator followed Trump’s lead when it came to findings from the intelligence community about how Russian hacking influenced the presidential election, basically declining to address them.

    “I have done no research into that,” he told Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. “I know just what the media says about it.”

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