Why did Senate Dems dump their star witness against Sessions?

dcnf-2-1Rachel Stoltzfoos, DCNF

Senate Democrats made an odd choice in compiling a list of witnesses to testify against GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, opting not to call back a key witness who derailed the senator’s last hearing by accusing him of racist comments.


J. Gerald Hebert testified against Sessions in a Senate confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship appointment in 1986, relaying accounts of what he called “deeply concerning” racist remarks Sessions allegedly made. As a career DOJ lawyer, his testimony was key in derailing Sessions’ bid, along with that of Thomas Figures’, who died in 2015.

Given the potency of Hebert’s testimony in 1986, and his public statements to the press this week reiterating and affirming those statements, it’s strange Democrats wouldn’t call him back to testify. Hebert laid out his case against Sessions again in The Washington Post in November, stating he wanted to get it back into the public record.

“He was very affable, always wanting to have a conversation, a cup of coffee,” Hebert told the Senate in 1986, referring to his work with Sessions, while he was the Alabama attorney general. “Over the course of those months, I had a number of conversations with him, and in a number of those conversations he made remarks that were deeply concerning.”

The remarks boil down to Sessions calling the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” organizations that “do more harm than good,” and another incident which Hebert described as a “rumor” he heard. Rumor had it, he told the Senate that a federal judge had called a civil rights lawyer a “traitor to his race” for taking on black clients, and Sessions had responded: “Well, maybe he is.”

Sessions denied the “un-American” comments and said the other remarks Hebert referred to were mischaracterized and taken out of context. Although Hebert also told the Senate he wasn’t sure whether Sessions was racist, his testimony combined with Figures’ was enough to complete the characterization, and Sessions was rejected for the judgeship.

A spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Hebert wasn’t called because there are limited spots available for testimony. “With only four spots and a single day for outside witnesses, there are a lot of witnesses who weren’t called,” said Tom Mentzer. “I don’t have readouts on everyone who isn’t speaking at the hearing.”

Pressed further, the spokesman declined to comment.

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