Home / General / Laughing At Jeff Sessions’s Lies A Criminal Offense, Says Jeff Sessions’s DOJ

Laughing At Jeff Sessions’s Lies A Criminal Offense, Says Jeff Sessions’s DOJ


There’s nothing funny about this:

The U.S. Capitol Police officer who decided to arrest an activist because she briefly laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January is a rookie cop who had never conducted an arrest before nor worked at a congressional hearing. Nevertheless, prosecutors persisted this week in pursuing charges against the 61-year-old woman the rookie had taken into custody.

Katherine Coronado of the U.S. Capitol Police was in her second week on the job when she was assigned to keep watch over Sessions’ confirmation hearing on Jan. 10. Coronado was involved in the arrest of Desiree Fairooz, an activist affiliated with the group Code Pink, after Fairooz laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” (Sessions had been rejected as a federal judge in the 1980s because of concerns about his views on race, and back when he was still a Democrat, Shelby himself actually ran an ad suggesting Sessions had called the Ku Klux Klan “good ole boys.”)

Still, let us not forget that people who criticize Bret Stephens’s climate denialism are the greatest threat to free speech in America today.

…she has been convicted on two counts. Tina Nguyen [H/T Downpuppy] adds valuable context:

The Justice Department will not press federal charges against two white Baton Rouge police officers involved in last year’s shooting death of a black man, Alton Sterling, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday, bringing renewed attention to how Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already controversial, is choosing to deal with allegations of police bias and racially motivated shootings. The decision is not entirely surprising: federal civil rights charges in such cases are rare, due to the high burden of proof, and even the Obama-era D.O.J. repeatedly declined to charge police officers involved in high-profile deaths. Still, it is stunning to see what cases Donald Trump’s attorney general has decided to prosecute.

On Wednesday, a jury convicted a 61-year-old female activist who had laughed during Sessions’s January confirmation hearing in the Senate. Desiree Fairooz, a longtime protester affiliated with the anti-war group Code Pink, had been escorted out of the room for laughing in response to Senator Richard Shelby’s assertion that Sessions had a “clear and well-documented” history of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” (Sessions had, in fact, been denied a federal judgeship in 1986 because of a history of racially charged remarks, and Shelby himself had once run a campaign ad suggesting that Sessions was a Klan sympathizer.) Fairooz, along with two other protesters, faces up to a year in prison.

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  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Don’t forget Ann Coulter being disinvited from Berkeley and people treating Charles Murray impolitely!

    • Dilan Esper

      The Charles Murray thing was about a female professor who was assaulted.

      Having said that, what OP describes appears to be a blatant First Amendment violation.

  • In a couple more years, Sessions will be able to have people like Ms. Fairooz taken out and shot.

    • Aardvark Cheeselog

      With a name like that, she didn't even deserve a trial, really.

      • kayden

        She looks White. My stomach feels sick to hear that in a democratic country, a citizen can be prosecuted for laughing at a public official.

        How is this not fascism? This is worth protesting.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          If you’re going to be prosecuted for LAUGHING, you might as well be prosecuted for yelling:


          That will make the court case more amusing also, too.

  • ringtail

    But the liberals are the real thought police!

    • Nobdy

      Hey you can think whatever you want as long as you don’t express it.

      For now.

  • Downpuppy

    She was convicted on 2 counts.

    I haven’t found anything on the sentencing

    (Edited because the Vanity Fair story was better)

  • PotemkinMetropolitanRegion

    I would have laughed too, because its true: “Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” (emphasis added). Its just a shit record.

    • In TrumpAmerica you can’t even laugh at the bad jokes like Session.

  • aturner339

    Joe Wilson is still in congress right? Funny old world…

    • DAS

      I wrote Jeff Sessions (via the DOJ website) to ask him to re-consider prosecuting Rep. Joe Wilson, and I urge everyone else to do the same.

      ETA: I also wrote my senators to ask them to impeach Jeff Sessions.

  • Rob in CT

    Wow, I hadn’t heard about this one.


  • Linnaeus

    I look forward to the next essay by Conor Friedersdorf or Jon Chait condemning this act of political correctness.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Double Word Score for a libertarian argument attacking a Code Pink-affiliated activist.

  • PunditusMaximus

    Why, it is almost as though “Free Speech” was a cover for conservative lying with impunity and nothing else!

  • Kevin Hayden

    It sure sounded like a very small brief laugh. Didn’t sound forced at all. And jurors indicated her post-arrest conduct contributed to their decision.

    So tell me, do you think she’ll win this one on appeal? The pre-arrest behavior seems like a spontaneous human reaction, not at all deliberately disruptive.

    • efgoldman

      I can’t believe a federal judge didn’t throw it out.

      • PunditusMaximus

        Why, it is almost as though “Free Speech” is now a cover for conservative lying with impunity and nothing else!

        • Hondo

          There’s something revealing about your apparent need to post the same exact comment in two separate places of this thread. It’s as if you have a need to repeat yourself until you get a response, and getting no response to your comment is not acceptable to your ego. #Sad. #Pathetic.

          • PunditusMaximus

            Because the supposed “nightmare scenario” where government entities suppress lefty speech is, in fact the current status quo.

      • PotemkinMetropolitanRegion

        This case was heard in DC Superior Court (Washington DC’s equivalent of a state court). However, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of the District of Columbia serves as the “local” prosecutors for violations of state crime. So it was the Session’s DOJ ultimately signing off on this.

        • randy khan

          I’m kind of stunned that they found a DC jury that would convict her.

          • PotemkinMetropolitanRegion


    • Nobdy

      Even if it gets tossed it is deeply disturbing. This is textbook totalitarian stuff and is not supposed to happen in the U.S.

      I realize there is a lot going on but this needs a lot of amplification and the media needs to mercilessly mock Jeff Sessions over being a sensitive little baby tyrant. If I ran a newspaper I would run a full front page caricature of Sessions crying in a diaper with a headline like “Don’t laugh at me, sobs infant AG”

      The only way to fight this is with more ridicule. If it’s in the courts they have already won because they are spending taxpayer resources to enforce their will and the defendant is severely punished through the process even if they are ultimately found innocent.

      • CP

        Even if it gets tossed it is deeply disturbing. This is textbook totalitarian stuff and is not supposed to happen in the U.S.

        The term for this is lèse-majesté, defined on wiktionary as “an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.” And yeah, that shit absolutely should have gone out when we tossed out the British.

        • Procopius

          I live in Thailand where we still have that law. It’s a real thing. If convicted you can be imprisoned for up to fifteen years, and most sentences are the max. The National Council for Peace and Order (the reigning junta) loves it because there’s virtually no defense and the offense is so ill defined. They can find a judge who will convict you if you say anything that might be construed as critical of the king, the royal family, or the palace bureaucracy. They have Article 44 of the Interim Constitution what says the head of the NCPO can order anything at all and it’s legal.

      • Hondo

        Yeah, the media will set the record straight. Just like they did when they refused to be baited into constant coverage of a pseudo-scandal in order to focus on the real policy differences between two candidates for president.
        Or, the time when they refused to be stenographers for the White House and Pentagon by repeating unsubstantiated and questionable claims of the existence of WMD in Iraq, and instead grilled the Bush administration to force them to address all the uncertainties surrounding their justifications for war.
        Or, the time when they refused to publish the words of people who tell us that thousands of scientists around the world from hundreds of universities are all wrong in their analyses of the data and first-hand observations and squaring those with the known laws of physics, instead only publishing facts that withstood scientific scrutiny.
        You mean that media?

        • Little Chak

          Yep, the ones that responded with understanding and humility instead of tribal defensiveness when called out for their irresponsibility.

          “The truth matters now more than ever, which is why we must print opinions full of climate falsehoods and logical fallacies that attack science. You have to have some falsehoods to balance out the truth.”

    • Cheerfull

      Some of the jurors said they felt they had no choice but to vote guilty based on the law and her past laugh conduct, which my sense was raising a sign and protesting when ordered out.

      So I guess part of the question is whether a law that allows for six months for the crime of briefly protesting at being kicked out of a meeting for a bogus reason makes any sense.

      Though one would wish of course the jurors had nullified, the real problem here as often the case is police and prosecutorial discretion to use the laws that lie around waiting to be abused.

      • dcoffin

        If the jurors felt that her post-laugh behavior was reason to convict her for laughing, then I would hope this can be easily thrown out on appeal. But not being a lawyer…

    • kayden

      Even if she deliberately laughed, why is that deserving of jail time?

      • liberalrob

        It’s probably more due to her being in Code Pink than the laughing alone. Code Pink has a long history of disrupting hearings; I’m sure the police are extra-vigilant for opportunities to throw their members in the clink.

        • DAS

          Well … if they are so prone to disrupting hearings, let the police arrest one of them for an actual disruption.

          • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

            Apparently they no longer need an actual disruption.

    • DAS

      I think the law needs to be very careful in considering post arrest conduct. While people need to, if arrested, more or less comply with the arrest* for safety and order’s sake, I would wonder how any of those jurors would respond if they were arrested?

      We cannot hold people culpable for behavior that any reasonable person might exhibit under a given circumstance, provided that the circumstance wasn’t entirely of that person’s making in the first place: i.e. if you kill a police officer shooting at you while you are yourself being shot at because you are robbing a bank, then, even if anyone would engage in potentially deadly self-defense being shot at, you still are guilty of felony murder because you were committing a felony at the time. OTOH, if you are arrested for dubious reasons and you start shouting at the arresting officer “shit is fucked up and bullshit”, that is a reasonable response to being arrested for laughing!

      * assumes the arrest was properly made and the officer properly identified himself/herself. If someone is placed under arrest by an officer not making a full identification, how does the arrestee know that the supposed officer is not a kidnapper pretending to be a police officer? And if you think you are being kidnapped, wouldn’t you fight back with extreme force?

  • JDM

    It’s officially scary now. Seriously, this is the exact moment future historians will point to.

    • Nobdy

      I know it is cliche to refer to the TV show du jour but this IS some Handmaid’s Tale woman being punished for not knowing her place scary ass shit.

  • Murc

    This is a vile travesty of justice that makes a mockery of too many principles of law, decency, and principle to name.

    I blame Sessions but I also blame the jury. Apparently the DOJ managed to find twelve terrible people during voir dire. Every prosecutors dreams.

    • Just one more piece of evidence of how truly and historically awful this administration is, in every single way. As if we needed more.

    • Nobdy

      Under Jeff Sessions we should call it the “VIle Travesty of Justice Department.” It’s his signature dish!

    • so-in-so

      Recall the standard line about prosecutors convicting a sandwich if they really want to? I’m sure they were very careful in selecting the jury.

      • Murc

        Recall the standard line about prosecutors convicting a sandwich if they really want to?

        It’s about indicting a ham sandwich. Being indicted is not the same as being convicted.

        • PunditusMaximus

          cf: “you can beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride.”

          Of course, civil forfeiture throws a bit of a monkey wrench into this.

  • DrDick

    She impugned his dignitude! That is a capital crime.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Putin must be so proud of his students.

  • witlesschum

    I can’t even convey what contempt I have for this and everyone involved in perpetrating it.

  • Thom

    In 7th grade, a teacher had me “stay after school” because I yawned in class. In fact, the yawn was of the involuntary type. In any case, the lesson I learned was that some people are paranoid assholes.

  • lhartmann

    Jesus H. effing Christ. what are we coming to…

    • kayden

      It’s horrific! This is something you’d read about in a dictatorship or novel about a future dystopian society. This is not America, the land of the free.

      • liberalrob

        It never was. And thank goodness, because true absolute freedom is itself a nightmare. But “land of the mostly free” doesn’t poll well.

  • cpinva

    if “violating the rules of the Senate” is a criminal offense, why aren’t all Republican Senators currently serving jail time?

    I hope to god this gets not only overturned on appeal, but scathingly so. and then she sues for wrongful arrest/prosecution.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “..and still she persisted…”

  • Hogan

    Strictly speaking, it was Richard Shelby’s lies she was laughing at.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      And Shelby used to be a Democrat...so the Democrats are the real enemies of free expression here (and the real racists, if we're forced to admit that the Attorney General is a racist, that is)!

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        (That would have been in sarcasm font if I knew how to make sarcasm font.

        Oh great! I just figured it out! Time to edit that first comment!)

        • JR in WV

          Good Job, I Buttocks, good job, and quick work too!! Jolly good work!!

          Sessions, on the other hand… vile piece of work, that.

  • sibusisodan

    Reminded me of this Moment From Literature when laughter is the correct response to something which is facially stupid:

    Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

    Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

    But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

    If the creator can handle a little laughter without imprisoning Sarah,* I don’t see why Sessions’ dignity should be any higher.

    *oh, crap, this is the next Dan Brown novel, isn’t it?

    • DAS

      Also, when Hashem communicated to Abraham, S/he was also tactful enough to not tell Abraham exactly what Sarah had said: Sarah’s actual comment was something to the effect of “I can’t get wet and my husband’s … well, old, too”. The Rabbis teach that from Hashem’s tactful omission of why Sarah was laughing (i.e. the implication that Abraham can’t get it up anymore as well as the out and out statement that she can’t get wet anymore), we are to learn to be tactful, even when telling the truth.

      • DAS

        Found the literal translation of what Sarah actually said (which is different than what Hashem told Abraham Sarah said — what Hashem told Abraham echos Abraham’s own actual response):

        “after I have withered, shall I have moisture* and my lord** is old?”

        * the Hebrew word used often has a sexual connotation
        ** in this context a synonym for “husband”

  • McAllen

    It would be nice if the people who thought Ann Coulter deciding not to give a speech was a dire threat to free speech could generate at least a similar level of outrage about this.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      It’s all about the tribe. Coulter is one of them, this Code Pink activist isn’t. They support their team and root against their opponents.

  • Xenos

    Sessions needs to be laughed out of public life. He must not go out in public without people loudly laughing at him. He can prosecute shit like this in a controlled place like the halls of Congress, but he needs to be laughed at dozens of times per day from now on.

    It needs to become the new Santorum (ew). Authoritarians can’t abide ridicule, the trick is to defeat them with it before they get too much power.

  • socraticsilence

    To paraphrase what the right was so fond of saying when they weren’t being oppressed, if First Amendment solutions are taken off the table it becomes time to move to Second Amendment solutions.

    Note: I’m not calling for Sessions to be shot, simply pointing out that if the power of the federal government is used to restrict speech they don’t approve of Americans may well choose to employ non-speech methods to register their protest.

    • Chetsky

      *cough* I must demur. Simply by being the sort of person who comments at this blog, you’ve marked yourself as sufficiently intellectual, that come the revolution, you (like me, and everybody else here) will have low tumbril numbers, very soon up against the wall (for the firing squad).

      Look: I’m just as outraged as you are. But mobs (even mobs that start with ostensibly decent motives) have a tendency to get outta control and eat their progenitors. So please, don’t wish for it. Don’t even dream about it. We don’t want that outcome, and we don’t want anything even close.

      And of course, if it ever gets even -close-, that’ll be the Reichstag fire moment, when all our liberties are taken away.

  • randy khan

    Code Pink has done some pretty annoying things during Congressional hearings over the years, but on a scale of 1 to 10, laughing during a hearing doesn’t even rate a one.

    In one of those comparisons we’re going to be making too often between now and the end of this Administration, even the Bush 43 people didn’t prosecute anyone from Code Pink for much more outrageous disruptions, but this Senate and this Administration apparently think that going after her was just fine. I really hope that the conviction gets thrown out (and hope, frankly, that the trial judge is one to throw it out so she doesn’t have to wait for an appeal).

    • petesh

      Two legal questions:
      1. Could the trial judge have thrown it out earlier?
      2. Is there any kind of minimum sentence, or can the judge set a sentence so trivial (time served while being booked, perhaps) as to indicate displeasure?

  • dcoffin

    So here’s a question. If the DoJ can prosecute someone for laughing at a Congressional committee meeting, can I sue T. Rump for libel for alleging that I’m a paid protester at a rally opposing his policies? Because if I can, I’m going to more protests.

  • JR in WV

    Un-American shit going down, by those Republican Muscovites. Putin must be very proud!!

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