During his confirmation hearing to become the next attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) softpedaled President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country.
On Tuesday morning, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Sessions if he agreed with Trump’s stance in favor of prohibiting people from entering the U.S. because of their religion. Sessions replied that Trump does not hold that position.
“I believe the president-elect has, subsequent to that statement, made clear that he believes the focus should be on individuals coming from countries that have history of terrorism,” Sessions responded. “And he’s also indicated that his policy and what he suggests is a strong vetting of people from those countries before they’re admitted to United States.”
But Trump reiterated his support for a Muslim ban during a press conference last month. Following the truck attack that killed 12 people attending an outdoor market in Berlin, he said, “Hey, you’ve known my plans all along and it’s, they’ve proven to be right. 100 percent correct. What’s happening is disgraceful.”
“Our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” he said at the time, adding that there should be “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump painted Muslims with a broad brush by characterizing them as “radical Islamic terrorists,” and saying that “Islam hates us.” He also called for the creation of a Muslim registry and heightened surveillance of those currently living in the country.
After mischaracterizing Trump’s stance on the subject, Sessions went on to defend his vote against a resolution proposed by Leahy that would prevent such a ban.
“My view and concern was in the resolution, it was suggesting that you could not seriously consider a person’s religious views,” he said on Tuesday. “Sometimes, at least not in a majority, many people do have religious views that are inimical to the public safety of the United States. I did not want to have a resolution that suggested that that could not be a factor in the vetting process, before someone is admitted. But I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as should be denied admission to the United States.”
Watch the exchange between Sessions and Leahy here: