Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says the confirmation of Jeff Sessions means we will once again have a Justice Department that follows the law and he says the way Democrats treated Sessions could mean fewer of them in the Senate after the 2018 elections.
After eight years of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch running the Justice Department, Cuccinelli says Sessions will be a breath of fresh air.
“Simply making decisions based on what the law says would be a radical change at the Department of Justice, as would the appearance of justice,” said Cuccinelli, who served four years as the top law enforcement official in Virginia.
While hoping to see many changes compared to the Obama years, Cuccinelli says one of Sessions’ top goals should be to stop federal agencies from granting themselves power that the law does not grant them.
“They have to stop backing up executive agencies, including the department itself, in expanding the law. They need to focus on containing government within the law. That includes everything from silly stuff like transgender bathrooms being covered by gender discrimination all the way up to agencies attempting to create new regulatory arenas for themselves and this vastly increase their power,” said Cuccinelli.
President Trump has already talked about his desire to roll back the ability of the government to grab more power. But Cuccinelli says that effort really needs to be rooted at the Justice Department.
“The legal oompf for all of that comes from the Department of Justice and having Sessions there – someone who’s committed to the rule of law and to reining in the federal government and not using it to exercise power – is going to be a very welcome change,” said Cuccinelli.
One specific area Cuccinelli expects to see great improvement in is the Justice Department’s relationship with law enforcement.
“These are people going to bat to protect you and me who have not had the back of the government. Frankly, it’s been the opposite. They’ve had to worry about getting prosecuted just for doing their job. That day is over thanks to the ascension of Jeff Sessions as the attorney general,” said Cuccinelli.
However, Cuccinelli reminds Sessions and all Americans that attorney general is different than every other cabinet position.
“When it comes to matters of policy, the attorney general does what the president wants. When it comes to matters of law, the attorney general does what the law dictates regardless of what the president wants,” said Cuccinelli.
“As opposed to what we’ve seen for the past eight years, I am confident that Sessions is going to be an attorney general who is actually going to uphold both sides of that deal for the American people,” said Cuccinelli.
On Wednesday, Sessions was confirmed by the Senate on a 52-47 vote. Only Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, crossed the aisle to back Sessions.
The confirmation process featured heated debate, including Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions should be rejected for his record on race and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was booted from the debate for allegedly disparaging Sessions in her floor speech.
Cuccinelli says the vitriol coming from Democrats is telling.
“They’re playing to a rabid left-wing base that is wildly out of touch with just ordinary Americans,” said Cuccinelli, who says the Democrats never found substantive reasons to oppose Sessions.
“There’s just nothing that they can point to other than generating their own allegations for complaints. He is a nice guy. He is an intelligent individual. He believes what he believes and that is somewhat different than the lefties there. Nonetheless, the way he conducts himself even in those situations has never given any of them cause for complaint before,” said Cuccinelli.
He believes Booker and Warren lodged their fierce protests for the sake of their own self-promotion. He notes Booker recently lavished praise on Sessions in public after they worked together, but then turned and accused Sessions of being racially biased.
“I don’t care what the project is. If I think you’re a racist, I will never stand next to you and tell the world what a great guy you are,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli is also president of the Senate Conervatives Fund, which recruits and contributes to conservative U.S. Senate candidates. The group has frequently clashed with establishment Republicans and the national party, but right now Cuccinelli sees great opportunities as Democrats have to defend the vast majority of Senate seats in 2018.
“I fully expect Republicans to gain seats. The only question is how many. The biggest targets of them all are going to be Democrats in states that President Trump won,” said Cuccinelli.
Three years after narrowly losing the governor’s race in Virginia, Cuccinelli will not be a Senate candidate against Tim Kaine in 2018. However, he believes the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee is vulnerable too.
“This is an eminently winnable state and Sen. Kaine has really accomplished nothing and has become more radicalized, certainly much more so than the average voter in Virginia, than his time in the Senate,” said Cuccinelli.