The fact that Jeff Sessions even had a confirmation hearing for attorney general would be shocking — if not laughable — to the senators who chose not to confirm Sessions to the judiciary back in the '80s. Well, fast forward 30 years and Sessions is no longer the problem. Instead, a woman named Desiree Fairooz, who laughed at Sessions during his more recent hearing, is apparently causing quite the stir within the Justice Department.
According to a report in The Huffington Post, Fairooz laughed after Sen. Richard Shelby, during his introduction, said that Sessions' history of "treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented." If you're familiar with Sessions' voting record or have heard Elizabeth Warren read the letter from Coretta Scott King opposing him, you can see why this might seem funny to Fairooz. Sessions, of course, has denied all allegations of racism.
And evidently the laugh wasn't even loud enough that it interrupted Sen. Shelby's speech. Nonetheless, the government is charging the 61-year-old activist with — according to Huff Po's Ryan Reilly — “willful ‘disorderly and disruptive conduct’ intended to ‘impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct’ of congressional proceedings." If you think that sounds ridiculous, you're not the only one.
Another protester escorted out of Sessions hearing. Her original offense appeared to be simply laughing. pic.twitter.com/p6lWzBVFRW— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 10, 2017
After being arrested, Fairooz, an activist with Code Pink, unfurled a banner reading "Refugees welcome; Stop Sessions." She also shouted, "Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil. Do not vote for Jeff Sessions." While that may be a bit disruptive, Fairooz only did so after being arrested by the officer. The maximum sentence is a $500 fine and six months in prison — hardly fair for what started out as a laugh.
Fairooz released a statement through her organization, Code Pink:
Again, Sessions has denied any allegations of racism.
The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at Jeff Sessions: https://t.co/SvtmyH8bXo— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) May 2, 2017
This is not the first time that Fairooz has been in trouble for protesting — although this instance is rather tame if you compare it to the time that she confronted Condoleezza Rice with fake blood and called her a war criminal before another congressional hearing. That time she was also charged with disorderly conduct and was banned from the Capitol.
This would all be unfortunate no matter who was doing the prosecuting. But since Sessions is now the attorney general and therefore in charge of the prosecutors who are moving forward with the case, the whole issue becomes much more loaded.