EXCLUSIVE: Booker’s Ironic Embrace of Attorney General Jeff Sessions; the InsiderNJ Interview

Booker

INSIDERNJ on Friday at St. Peter’s University conducted a wide-ranging interview with U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), wherein the senator addressed numerous issues, including healthcare, prison reform, poverty, transportation and infrastructure and the state of the media. The entire interview can be viewed by going here. For the purposes of our written coverage of the interview, we decided to cull some highlights, which you may read below. 

JERSEY CITY – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) famously broke precedent when he testified against a senate colleague during the attorney general confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, and now finds himself in the unlikely position of defending Sessions against President Donald J. Trump, who has taken to excoriating his appointee on twitter against the backdrop a federal probe of his presidency.

Booker feared Sessions’ civil rights record would jeopardize the country’s moral authority in meting out justice, but now, ironically, Sessions stands as a vital link in the protection of the integrity of the work of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and under these circumstances, the senator says he wants him to stay put.

“You know what I did to stop this person,” Booker told InsiderNJ. “He has fulfilled everything I said he would.” The senator noted that Sessions seeks a return to the highest penalties for nonviolent drug offenders and represents a threat to the voting rights of minorities. “A despicable dishonorable throw back to a time before you and I were born,” Booker added.

Booker
Booker

But, “This is the problem,” he noted. “Jeff Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself, absolutely. Because of that courageous recusal, we now have a special prosecutor, which gives me some sense of calm. We’ve got one [Special prosecutor Robert Mueller] who is beyond reproach.”

Trump evidently wants to force Sessions out so he can replace him with a flunky who will fire Mueller and thereby short circuit the probe into his and his allies’ connections to Russia.

“I would have liked to never see Jeff Sessions as the attorney general, but I worry about who he [Trump] might put in there, and in this context right now, where Donald Trump is not only attacking the special prosecutor but doing opposition research against him, during this tenuous time, I would not like to see those dominos fall, and Jeff Sessions is a little bit of a bar to the special prosecutor being taken out.”

InsiderNJ conducted its interview with the senator a day after Republicans fell short of passing a so-called skinny bill to repeal Obamacare, with GOP Senators McCain, Murkowski and Collins all breaking ranks to vote with Democrats against the repeal and infuriating the President. While Booker applauded the development, he also noted that his party and allies must continue to resistant efforts by Trump and the Republican leadership to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He also took a moment to criticize the GOP political strategy.

“I think Republicans put themselves in a terrible trap of their own creation,” Booker said. “They rode this kill Obamacare strategy for seven years, vilifying our president and making him evil. Take a look at polls, where the same people say ‘I love the Affordable Care Act, just don’t give me Obamacare.’ All of it was built on vilifying the president. Anything they could do for a low moment they did, including vilifying Chris Christie for hugging Barack Obama, which wasn’t even a good hug.”

Ultimately what it came down to, the senator said was they didn’t have a plan to replace the law they said they reviled.

Booker praised McCain for resisting Trump on the repeal of Obamacare, but also disputed the Arizona senator’s recollection of how the ACA came to be, following what New Jersey’s junior senator said were numerous hearings, debates, and changes.

“It’s one of the great lies that many Americans believe Obamacare was just rushed through,” said Booker, who said that if Trump were to get his way, the result would be the “despicable” lack of clarity on individual healthcare mandates.

“Last night was an important victory in a longer fight,” the senator said.

First elected to the senate in 2013 and formerly the mayor of Newark, Booker called these last seven months with Donald J. Trump as president the most, disturbing and malice-filled epoch of his time in public life. He made his comments on the same day that Trump encouraged an audience of police to rough up those alleged offenders upon arrest.

“We do not need a president showing the worst gutter aspects of humanity and meanness,” Booker said.  “We are in a crisis, and what is going to define us is not who the president is but how the rest of us behave in light of who the president is. This is a president who offers American carnage, who says ‘I’m going to appeal to your fears.’ Finally, this will be about our response to demagoguery and evil, and it is our obligation to get ‘folk woke.’ This time, more than ever ,when we are hearing loud, rancorous hatred and bigotry, you must do everything you can to evidence the light within you.”

Booker acknowledged what he described as the failure of the Democratic Party to adequately address those grave issues that most people grapple with every day. “It should not have taken a Donald Trump to activate the electorate,” he said. “Why could we not have been activated by injustices before Donald Trump? Hate, bigotry, sexism, an unjust criminal justice system, the opioid epidemic. So many people are checking out, they just don’t believe in politicians anymore, and so they put their faith in a carnival barker who wants to blow up the whole system.”

As he resists Trump, puts himself at the front of a national movement to go in another direction, and rejoices in the small wins, like the check to healthcare repeal and Sessions’ refusal to stand down, Booker continues to reassert his lovable optimism and bipartisan, John McCain-hugging ways as a counterpoint to scare tactics of the president.

“Hug the trolls,” Booker said. “Being kind doesn’t mean you’re not tough.”

Booker
U.S. Senator Cory Booker

 

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