During the hours-long Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, the Alabama senator was grilled about his dismal civil rights record, his notoriety as one of the most strenuously anti-immigration members of the Senate, and even about what a bummer it is to be called racist.
He was also asked about Donald Trump’s comments about “pussy grabbing”—though not in those exact words.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the former chair of the committee, reminded Sessions that, after the publication of the now-infamous 2005 recording of Donald Trump bragging that he’s famous enough to get away with grabbing women “by the pussy” without their consent, Sessions went on the record as saying that while the remarks were “improper,” he wouldn’t “characterize that as sexual assault.”
Leahy recounted how Sessions later distanced himself from the comments, but wanted to set the record straight: “Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent, is that sexual assault?”
“Clearly, it would be,” Sessions replied.
But Leahy wasn’t satisfied, and went on to ask if an Attorney General Sessions would prosecute or investigate Trump or another federal official if they were accused of sexual assault. Sessions started to defend his original statements about the recording before Leahy cut him off.
“My question is very simple, is grabbing a woman by her genitals without her consent, is that sexual assault?” he asked.
“Yes,” Sessions said.
After the video surfaced, surrogates for Trump’s campaign decried the candidate’s lewd remarks as “locker room talk” and stumbled all over themselves to explain how the unwanted intimate contact that our next president described in the video was not, in fact, sexual assault.
Sessions’ response offered a moment of validation for the women who have came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault, harassment, and unwanted sexual advances over his many years as a public figure. Unfortunately, it comes far too little and far too late.