Even at home, AG appointment comes with controversy

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — There are many Alabamians who are thrilled that President-elect Donald Trump has appointed Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General in his administration. State Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills) is one of them.

“We’re looking a a guy, coming up through the ranks that has a great reputation in the Senate,” Williams told CBS 42, “and he’s respected by his peers.  Jeff Sessions will be confirmed as Attorney General.”

Others are less convinced that Sessions’ path to confirmation will be that smooth. A Democratic congressman was quoted as saying that Sessions is the right pick, but only, ‘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.”  Luis Gutierrez went on to say that no senator has fought harder than Sessions “against the hopes and aspirations” of Latinos, immigrants and people of color.

There are also those living in the state who have real concerns about what Sessions’ role as top cop could mean for their families.  Frank Pass said that he and his family were hopeful that the senator would be named Secretary of Defense–or anything but Attorney General.  “He may surprise us,” Pass told CBS 42 by phone interview on Friday morning, “but I’m doubtful.  We really reached out to him over and over and over again.  I can’t really think of anybody that I would have more concerns with than Senator Sessions on this particular issue.  It’s a life and death issue for our family.”

Pass is referring to cannabis oil laws.  He and his family were among the advocates for the passage of Carly’s Law, and later, Leni’s Law.  His 5 year-old son was born with significant brain damage.  Prior to gaining access to cannabis oil, Pass said that his son suffered 10 to 15 seizures, daily.  Now, he’s been taking it for around a year, and Pass said that the difference has been incredible.  His son no longer has to be bottle-fed, and he’s seen a tremendous improvement in seizure control and cognitive development.

While working to get those state laws passed, Pass said that he and other parents reached out to leaders on the state and federal level.  Pass called the state representatives’ responses “amazing” and “overwhelming”.  As for the response they received on the federal level he said, “Several families got letters back.  We did not get one, we just got silence from Senator Sessions, but I’ve seen some of the letters that did come back.  He [Sessions] chided some of the families about the evils of marijuana and things like that.”

Pass is worried what Sessions will do in his new role as Attorney General.  “The state laws for access to cannabis oil are different than the federal laws,” he explained.  “The Obama administration has been pretty hands-off when it has allowed these state laws to go through, and our concern is just if that attitude changes.  How will that effect our son?”

Sessions has received national attention for a number of controversial issues since his appointment including statements that he has allegedly made about race, immigration, and marijuana.  Rep. Williams called those critics “naysayers”.

“I’ve had the opportunity to know Senator Sessions personally–before he ran for the first time” he said, “I think he’s a man of outstanding character and I think he’ll be a great AG for our country.”

Sessions has vehemently denied allegations that he made racist remarks that cost him a federal judgeship during his time as U.S. Attorney in Alabama.  It’s something Williams also believes.  “I’ve never heard Jeff Sessions say anything that I thought was racist, or that anyone could construe as reflecting racial prejudice,” he said.

Williams, like many of Alabama’s leaders, has been thrilled to congratulate the senator.  He says he feels comforted by the President-elect’s choice.  “I think Jeff Sessions believes in and respects the rule of law,” Williams said, “and we are a nation of laws.  I think there was a lot of feeling over the past 8 years that if we didn’t like a law, we didn’t enforce it.  Or, there would just be an executive order that many folks believe, a lot of times, wasn’t constitutional.  I think you’ll see an administration that operates in accordance with the rule of law.”

As for the Alabamians who concerned about Sessions’ appointment, Williams encouraged people to let Trump and his cabinet start to govern before throwing rocks.  “This is how the system works,” he said.  “I would say, let’s allow the system to work.”  Williams went on to encourage those people who are frustrated by the results of the election and Trump’s appointments to ‘stay involved and keep pushing’ and ‘let their voices be heard’.

“President Obama said to the Republican Congress in 2008–elections have consequences,” he said.

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