- Justice Department interns posed tough questions to Attorney General Jeff Sessions during an event over the summer, newly published video shows.
- Sessions told one intern that “other places in the country” have different views regarding excessive use-of-force from police officers.
- He told another that marijuana is not a healthy substance.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was grilled by Justice Department interns over the summer about contentious issues like police violence and marijuana legalization, an internal video obtained by ABC News shows.
During the private event, one intern asked Sessions about Philando Castile and Michael Brown, two black men killed in recent years by police officers who were not convicted for the fatal shootings.
“I grew up in one of these communities,” the intern said. “I 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.”
Sessions, appearing frustrated, replied, “Well, that may be the view in Berkeley, but it’s not the view in other places in the country.”
“I hear you, I hear you,” Sessions continued. “We’ve got a situation where we need to confront violent crime in America in cities that have abandoned traditional police activities, like Baltimore and Chicago. Murder rates have surged, particularly in poor neighborhoods.”
Sessions went on to say that the Justice Department is committed to defending Americans’ civil rights and would prosecute police officers who violate them.
Coincidentally, the video’s release occurred on the same day as the sentencing of former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, who will serve 20 years in prison for fatally shooting Walter Scott in the back as he fled a traffic stop in April 2015. Slager pleaded guilty in May to federal civil rights violations.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said Thursday that Sessions’ discussion with the interns was intended to give students the opportunity “to have robust conversation – even debates – about the challenges facing our country with the attorney general.”
‘Marijuana is not a healthy substance’
Another intern posed a fiery question comparing marijuana deaths to gun deaths, remarking that the latter was more statistically significant.
“Since guns kill more people than marijuana, why lax laws on one and harsh laws on the other?” she said.
Sessions responded that the question was one of “apples and oranges” and asked whether she was aware of the Second Amendment.
“I intend to defend that Second Amendment. It’s as valid as the First Amendment. So that’s my basic philosophical view about it,” he said. “Look, there’s this view that marijuana is harmless and it does no damage. I believe last year was the first year that automobile accidents that occurred were found to have been caused more by drugs than by alcohol.”
He went on to say that “marijuana is not a healthy substance, in my opinion,” arguing that the American Medical Association is “crystal clear on that.” When Sessions asked the intern whether she believed that point, the intern responded, “I don’t.”
“Okay, so Dr. Whatever Your Name Is, you can write to AMA to see why they think otherwise,” Sessions said.