Trump passed over Acosta during the news conference and Spicer threatened to eject him if he spoke up again. When ABC’s Cecilia Vega pressed Trump on the matter, the President-elect spent nearly 90 seconds filibustering before heading for the elevators, where he eventually denied
to reporters that he or anyone on his team had been in contact with the Russians during the campaign.
Unlike Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions a day earlier, Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil chief with extensive business ties to Moscow, was confronted with a blistering round of inquiries from the senators who will decide if his nomination vote goes to the full chamber. Rubio in particular, pressed Tillerson with a categorical question.
“Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?” the Florida senator asked.
Tillerson hedged, saying he “would not use that term” and requited “much more information” before giving a clear answer.
Rubio pressed on, running off a laundry list of Russian aggression, from its actions in Aleppo to the murder of dissidents and journalists, but Tillerson didn’t budge.
Further questions about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines were met with similar demurrals.
By late Wednesday, Amnesty International USA had weighed in with their growing concerns.
“After a day of questioning, Tillerson’s commitment to human rights in the US and abroad is in serious question,” the group’s executive director, Margaret Huang, said in an email. “He must use tomorrow’s hearing to clarify today’s troubling statements.”
3. The lesson: A Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions will not vigorously police the police
The moment: Asked on Tuesday for his opinion on the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees to oversee and reform police departments with records of abuse, Sessions expressed serious doubts.
During the tenures of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department has been proactive in applying oversight measures to local law enforcement outfits found to have committed civil rights violations.
The department has used a tool called a consent decree — a period of enforced reform, with terms agreed by municipal authorities and Justice Department officials as a means of avoiding federal court action. Ferguson, Missouri and Cleveland are among the wide range, in size and prominence, of cities to sign on after high-profile offences.
“I think there is concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department that have done wrong,” Sessions said when asked during the first day of his hearing. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness, and we need to be careful before we do that.”
With an attorney general — and Sessions is all but guaranteed to be confirmed — so openly critical of the process, it’s hard to imagine the Trump Justice Department will be initiating the reviews that became a hallmark of its predecessor.
4. The lesson: Protesters — not a beleaguered Democratic minority — are set to emerge as leaders in the anti-Trump resistance
The moment: The Sessions confirmation hearings, Day 1. While senators mostly treated Sessions with deference during what many had expected to be a fraught and tense confirmation hearing, Democrats were not nearly as vocal as the demonstrators that frequently interrupted the proceedings.
Protesters from a variety of grassroots progressive groups and larger liberal organizations were often the harshest voices in the room during Sessions’ hearings. They rose at seemingly regular intervals to rail against the Alabama senator, who was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 amid allegations he made racist comments to a colleague. More recently, Sessions has emerged as a vocal backer of voter ID laws.
Activist Kai Newkirk, who was arrested during a sit-in at Sessions’ office, told CNN Wednesday he was willing to be jailed because “Sessions’ history and present positions make it undeniably clear that he cannot be entrusted to uphold equal justice, civil rights, or the right to vote.”
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee panel were mostly restrained in their questioning, with Minnesota’s Al Franken the rare Sessions colleague to confront him over his past record — deliberately overstated, Franken suggested — as a civil rights proponent.
With their party set to turn over the White House, and already nearly powerless in Congress, Democrats sitting on Capitol Hill could soon take a backseat to progressives and allied groups planning to stand up to Trump with mass protests and direct actions.
5. The lesson: Difficult conversations about race in policy clashes and political conflicts aren’t going anywhere during the Trump era.
The moment: Both Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights hero, and Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, testified against Sessions on the second day of his confirmation hearings.