Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed a claim that there’s widespread fear of police among poor minority communities and taunted a woman who said guns were more fatal than marijuana, calling her “Dr. Whatever Your Name Is.”
The attorney general’s comments came in a 25-minute session with Justice Department interns on June 22, according to ABC News, which first reported Sessions’ remarks and obtained internal DOJ video of the event through a Freedom of Information Act request.
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In the video, a University of California, Berkeley, School of Law student began his question by invoking Philando Castile and Michael Brown, two African-Americans who were killed by police officers in separate incidents that drew national attention, and others who have “fallen victim to excessive force.”
Sessions said DOJ cares about “all communities” and “public safety.” “We care about having neighborhoods — every neighborhood — where children can walk safely in their communities and feel that they can play outside, that their mothers and fathers don’t have to drive them to the bus stop, as I hear in New York is required because they’re afraid they might be attacked on the way to the bus stop,” he said.
The student responded, noting that he “grew up in the projects to a single mother, and the people who we are afraid of are not necessarily our neighbors but the police.”
“Well, that may be the view in Berkeley,” Sessions shot back, “but it’s not the view in most places in the country.” He added that the law enforcement needs to “confront violent crime in America in cities that have abandoned traditional police activity like Baltimore and Chicago,” asserting that murder rates there “have surged, particularly in poor neighborhoods.”
Another student, a woman attending Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, told the attorney general that “statistically, guns kill more people than marijuana does.” “You support pretty harsh policies for marijuana and pretty lax gun control laws — I’m not even sure where you stand on the assault weapons ban,” she continued. “So I’d like to know, since guns kill more people than marijuana, why lax laws on one and harsh laws on the other?”
Sessions laughed and called her question one of “apples and oranges” before remarking: “The Second Amendment — you’re aware of that — guarantees the right of the American people to keep arms, and I intend to defend that Second Amendment. It’s as valid as the First Amendment.”
The attorney general knocked the notion that marijuana is “harmless” and “does no damage.” “Marijuana is not a healthy substance, in my opinion,” he said. “American Medical Association is crystal clear on that. Do you believe that?”
The student hesitated. “Uhh, I don’t,” she said nervously.
“OK. Dr. Whatever Your Name Is, you can write the AMA and see why they think otherwise,” Sessions said.
When asked about the administration’s LGBT policy, Sessions vowed to “protect the civil rights of everybody,” telling one student, “You can be sure that we will protect transgender and all people and their civil rights.”
A DOJ spokeswoman told ABC News that the event was a platform where students could “have robust conversations — even debates — about the challenges facing our country with the attorney general.”
DOJ is “proud to provide hundreds of law students and undergraduates the opportunity to work with some of the finest lawyers in the country,” she said.