Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pressed today by black lawmakers on his agency’s relationship with African American communities — a heated exchange that included criticism of his hiring practices, a report on so-called ‘black extremists’ groups and his comments about Black Lives Matter.
During his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Sessions said he has yet to hire an African American to a senior level staff position at the Department of Justice.
“I do not have a senior staff member at this time that’s an African-American,” Sessions told the committee.
During the hearing, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Sessions he doesn’t want the Justice Department to go backwards when it comes to upholding civil rights for minorities.
“For a lot of people who objectively look from the back like I do and many people where I live, the question is whether we are going towards inclusion and diversity or going back,” Richmond said.
Richmond also brought to Sessions’ attention that 91 percent of the administration’s judicial nominees were white men and there had only been one African American nominee for U.S. attorney.
In January, Richmond testified in opposition to Sessions’ during the former Alabama senator’s confirmation hearing for attorney general.
Sessions is no stranger to accusations of racial bias during his career a public official. Allegations of racially-charged comments cost Sessions a seat as a federal judge in 1986.
Sessions was also questioned about his knowledge on a 12-page FBI report about ‘black extremists’ groups that was written by the agency in August. The FBI says these ‘extremist’ groups are increasingly targeting law enforcement after police killings of African American men, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, according to the Associated Press.
The FBI report has raised eyebrows and sparked outrage among some African American lawmakers.