Both South Carolina senators say they back Trump’s choice for attorney general

Both South Carolina U.S. senators announced endorsements of President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee before his confirmation hearings were two hours old Tuesday.

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott were among the first to endorse their Senate colleague from Alabama, Jeff Sessions. All three are Republicans. And the endorsements of both South Carolina lawmakers matters in this process.

Sessions has faced charges of racism stemming from a 1986 allegation that he’d made racist remarks and called the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “un-American.” During his hearing, he vehemently denied that he was a racist, calling the allegations wrong and hurtful.

“I abhor the Klan and what it represents, and its hateful ideology,” he said Tuesday morning to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Perhaps as important on that matter was the endorsement by Scott, the lone African-American senator in the Republican Party, who’s known as a strong voice on racial issues.

“After his nomination I invited Sen. Sessions to Charleston, South Carolina, in December of 2016 to meet with African-American pastors, law enforcement and leaders of color,” Scott said. “We had what both the attendees and I believe to be a very productive conversation, which gave us all a clearer picture of not only Jeff’s policy positions, but what is in his heart. . . . While many of the allegations brought up 30 years ago were and are disputed, there are many facts that are absolutely clear. Jeff is committed to upholding the Constitution of the United States.”

Scott noted that Sessions, back in his days as a U.S. attorney, had worked on desegregation lawsuits, fought for “protecting the civil rights of students seeking equal educational opportunity. He ensured a KKK murderer received the death penalty. He voted for the first black attorney general of the United States, and championed the effort to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.”

For his part, Graham said, “I will enthusiastically endorse you,” for the role. Graham, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, made his statement during his official questioning time. He also spoke then of a 15-year-long friendship with Sessions.

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews