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Jeff Sessions appears to call black scholar at Obama event 'some criminal'

'There was all the Obama – there's a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him'

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 02 July 2020 23:24 BST
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President Trump told reporters he is 'disappointed' with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Former US Attorney General and Alabama Senate candidate Jeff Sessions appeared to refer to a black Harvard University scholar as "some criminal" in a New York Times Magazine article published on Thursday.

It appears Mr Sessions was referring to Henry Louis Gates, Jr, who was wrongfully arrested in 2009 while he was trying to enter his own home.

After the incident occurred, then-President Barack Obama invited Mr Gates to the White House for a "beer summit".

Mr Sessions appears to be referring to the summit in the article, attributing it to an erosion in police morale.

"The police had been demoralised. There was all the Obama – there's a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him," Mr Sessions said. "Wasn't having a beer with the police officers. So we said, 'We're on your side. We've got your back, you got our thanks'."

Mr Sessions' claim that Mr Obama did not have a beer with the officers is incorrect – Sergeant Joe Crowley, the officer who arrested Mr Gates, did attend the summit.

The New York Times Magazine asked Mr Sessions' campaign to clarify his statements, but it declined to offer any additional comments.

Mr Sessions is currently running to re-take his old Senate seat in a primary campaign against a former Auburn football coach, Tommy Tuberville.

He said one of his priorities during his time as US Attorney General was to rebuild relationships with police forces and strengthen them.

"I said, 'We're going to embrace this as our mission, we're going to back the police and we're going to reduce crime."

One of Mr Sessions' most significant changes to the relationship between the federal government and local law enforcement was the issuing of memos just before his dismissal making it more difficult for the government to enter into consent decrees with police departments. Consent decrees are a powerful tool the federal government can use to enforce reforms in police departments.

When pressed on whether or not he would support police reforms if he were re-elected, Mr Sessions was non-committal, saying he'd prefer to see money spent training police to respond to riots.

"That's what really needs to be done. Not tell the police, 'If you were just more sensitive, riots wouldn't occur'," Mr Sessions said.

President Donald Trump fired Mr Sessions in 2018 and has publicly attacked him since his firing. Earlier this year, Mr Trump called on him to drop out of his Senate race because he "had no courage" and "ruined many lives". Mr Trump also said Mr Sessions was not "mentally qualified" to be his attorney general.

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