Charles Grassley

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Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation is shaping up to be a political circus act as sources indicate Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, (D, 66%) is expected to announce a special panel “to examine Sen. Sessions’ history on civil rights.” But in reality, the panel will only serve as a platform for smears, rumor, and spin.

A special panel would go directly against the Iowa Republican’s previously expressed goal of avoiding the disaster confirmation hearings for President George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft. In a statement in November, Grassley referred to Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings as a “reckless campaign that snowballed into an avalanche of innuendo, rumor and spin” and added Sessions’ confirmation hearings would not be a repeat.

Sources working with the Trump transition team and in the Senate, with direct knowledge of the situation, spoke with Conservative Review under the condition of anonymity and said that Chairman Grassley conceded to Senate Judiciary Democrat demands to allow a special panel on civil rights to cross-examine Sessions.

The announcement of the special panel could come as soon as Monday.

One source indicated that Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., (F, 22%) would be on the panel. For context, Lewis and Sessions both attended last year’s 50th Selma anniversary, but now Lewis will take part in the special panel to examine Sessions’ bona fides on civil rights.

What this panel will effectively do is give a congressional soapbox, sanctioned by the GOP Judiciary chairman, to conduct a prolonged smear campaign with the intent to paint Sessions as some sort of unrepentant neo-Confederate racist. The cardinal sins for which Democrats will try to convict him are believing that America should enforce its immigration laws, his support and assistance to President-elect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, and — above all — being a white, evangelical conservative from the state of Alabama.

After promising not to allow the process to become a political circus, a potential special panel with Grassley’s blessing would indeed become a side show.

The coming smears from the panel are sure to be a distortion of Session’s civil rights record, which — Erick Erickson points out at The Resurgent — boasts accomplishments such as:

  • Fighting to desegregate public schools;
  • Helping to break the back of the KKK in the state of Alabama in the early 1990s;
  • Seeking the death penalty for KKK members;
  • Fighting to give Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal;
  • Introducing legislation to bring crack cocaine penalties more in line with those for powder cocaine (a statutory discrepancy, which opponents claim disproportionately affects black Americans); and
  • Voting for a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Grassley promised to keep the hearing process clear of attacks on Sessions’ character and focused on qualifications needed to serve as attorney general. However, caving to Democrat demands and allowing for a special panel will serve as prime opportunity for Democrats to serve up baseless character attacks in an attempt to deny the Sessions’ confirmation, just as they did in 1986.

If Grassley’s concedes to Democrats it raises the question if Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (F, 0%) would make the same sort of concession to Grassley, had the Democrats taken control of the upper chamber in November, as many pundits expected.

After promising not to allow the process to become a political circus, a potential special panel with Grassley’s blessing would indeed become a side show. However, after eight years of bullying and allowing Democrats to run roughshod over the confirmation process, Grassley’s behavior is now par for the course.

Chairman Grassley’s office did not respond to Conservative Review’s request for comment.

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Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMaddenCR and on Facebook