Missoula Current

Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday expressed doubts about Sen. Jeff Sessions' ability to serve as the next U.S. Attorney General, saying the nominee failed to answer critical questions during their meeting regarding civil liberties.

Sessions, R-Alabama, has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the U.S. Justice Department as Attorney General – an appointment that has caused controversy among civil-rights watchdogs.

During their meeting, Tester, D-Montana, said he asked Sessions about his documented history of opposing important civil liberties, including his vocal support for the Patriot Act and other surveillance programs, which Tester contends infringe upon one's right to privacy.

“As our nation’s top law enforcement officer, it's the Attorney General’s responsibility to uphold the Constitution and defend all of our civil liberties,” Tester said Thursday after meeting with Sessions. “It's troubling to me that Sen. Sessions didn’t answer many of those important questions.”

Tester said he asked Sessions to explain his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, a measure designed to empowered survivors of domestic and sexual violence and hold offenders more accountable for their criminal actions.

He also urged Sessions to support the Community Orientated Policing Services (COPS) initiative, which provides local law enforcement departments with critical resources to hire, train and equip police officers.

“After this meeting, I am concerned that he will expand the government’s ability to spy on its citizens, refuse to be a voice for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and will not advocate for important grants, like the COPS Grants, that help our local police department do the job they are hired to do,” Tester said.

Sessions will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a public hearing in the coming weeks before being subject to confirmation by the larger Senate.