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Monday, April 24, 2017

For most pols, a gaffe is when they accidentally say what they really believe. With Jeff Sessions, it's when he says he was joking.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III kicked off his gig by arguing that US taxpayers need to pony up for The Great Wall because most of the illegal immigration problem has already gone away without one:

SESSIONS: I can't imagine the Democrats would shut down the government over an objection to building a down payment on a wall that can end the lawlessness. We've already received, George, a 60 percent or so reduction. March was the lowest illegal immigration month in 17 years.

But our goal is not to reduce it 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent, but to end illegality, create a lawful system of immigration where people apply to come here, they wait their turn, a system that we can be proud of as Americans.

And, like Baldrick in the Blackadder series, Granny has a cunning plan:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You sound quite confident right there.

Do you have any evidence that Mexico is going to pay for it?

SESSIONS: Well, we're going to get paid for it one way or the other. I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago that are going to payments to people -- tax credits that they shouldn't get.

Now, these are mostly Mexicans.

And those kind of things add up -- $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion. There are a lot of ways we can find money to help pay for this. But in the long run...

STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you going to...

SESSIONS: -- they've lost those...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- account for that money?

SESSIONS: What's that?

STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you going to account for...

SESSIONS: Well, we just...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that money?

SESSIONS: The Department of Treasury, several years ago, under the Obama administration, said that if you change the regulations and enforced it properly, you would save up to $4 billion a year.

There are other things that we can do at the border to create revenue that would pay for the wall. There's no doubt about that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in your discussions with your counterparts in Mexico, they have given no indication at all that the Mexican government is prepared to pay a single cent for this wall (INAUDIBLE)?

SESSIONS: Well, I don't expect the Mexican government to appropriate money for it. But there are ways that we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue for it. No doubt about it.

But Sessions had his best material in reserve:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the travel ban. You're taking some heat for comments you've made on the Mark Levin show this week. I want to play them for our audience.


SESSIONS: I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.


STEPHANOPOULOS; Of course, that island in the Pacific is the state of Hawaii. You've been blasted by Hawaii's senators, one called it dog whistle politics. Your response?

SESSIONS: Look, they filed a suit, the plaintiffs get to chose the venue. They filed a lawsuit in Hawaii. And the first decision on the new executive order came out of Hawaii. And all I was saying was the president...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not just call it the state of Hawaii?

SESSIONS: The president -- nobody has a sense of humor anymore.

Sessions is a longtime regular on the White Sheet Comedy Circuit, as CNN has reported:

As the US attorney in Mobile, Alabama, Jeff Sessions was talking over a case one day in the 1980s with two fellow prosecutors.

It had to do with a young black man who had been kidnapped and brutally murdered by two members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klansmen, Henry Hayes and Tiger Knowles, slit the victim's throat and hung his body from a tree.

They carried out the attack in retribution for a jury acquitting a black man in the slaying of a white police officer.

As Sessions learned that some members of the Klan had smoked marijuana on the evening of the slaying, he said aloud that he thought the KKK was: "OK until I found out they smoked pot."

Sessions insists he was joking.

Sessions jokes ‘bout all kinda things, as The Washington Post found:

“You know the NAACP hates white people; they are out to get them. That is why they bring these lawsuits, and they are a commie group and a pinko organization as well.”

Sessions said:

“I do not recall saying anything like that. I will admit that I am pretty — in my office, in talking to people that I am associated with, I am loose with my tongue on occasion, and I may have said something similar to that or could be interpreted to that. I do not believe I have ever specifically — it would be inconceivable that I ever specifically referred to the NAACP as an un-American or commie organization, even kidding. I mean, I may have referred to my church, the Methodist Church, as probably a bunch of pinkos, maybe. But that is an awful thing to say, and it is not true.”

One striking thing- jokes aside- is Granny’s comment about plaintiffs getting to pick where they file lawsuits. Sessions is busily dismissing LGBT rights litigation right and left where it was brought by the Obama administration, and he has been a big fanboy of GOP state attorneys general’s massive, years-long litigation campaign against all sorts of civil rights issues- where Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton discovered there is only one federal judge in Wichita Falls- a hard-right Bush 2 appointee- who will give a nationwide injunction against anything Paxton and his compadres want. It turns out to be way easier to make a deputy drive 185 miles north than to walk down the street to the federal courthouse in Austin: they have a bunch of judges there, but that’s the trouble. Paxton’s vendettas might get assigned, randomly, to one who actually thinks for him or herself.

Sessions is, also, nothing if not a mentor to up-and-coming government comedians:

On Friday, the justice department attempted to clarify Sessions’ remarks, saying in a statement: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific.”

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