US Senator Elizabeth Warren blasted the selection of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general on Friday, calling on President-elect Donald Trump to withdraw his name, or for the Senate to reject the nomination.
“I strongly urge Donald Trump to withdraw any consideration of Senator Sessions,” she told reporters at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “But if Donald Trump fails to do that, then there will be a moral question in the United States Senate. And that is: Can the Republicans step up and say, ‘No. No to Jeff Sessions?’ ”
Warren, who has emerged as a leading liberal counterpoint to the incoming Trump administration and Republican-led Congress, issued a fierce rallying cry to more than 400 female policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and activists who had gathered for the New England Women’s Policy Conference at UMass Boston.
Seizing upon their frustration with Trump’s election, Warren urged them to push back against the dangers she perceives in an incoming Trump administration and told them their work would be needed now more than ever.
“We will be tested as a nation,” Warren said. “History calls on us. This is our time to stand and fight for our principles.”
America needs to stand by two core values — that every human being deserves respect and that everyone deserves economic opportunity, not just those at the top, Warren said.
“We believe that our government has a role in both of those,” Warren said. “President-elect Trump threatens both of these core values.”
Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Warren has hammered Trump on all of his initial appointees. She described his pick for White House chief strategist and senior counselor, former Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon, as a “white supremacist.” As for Sessions, she noted he was rejected for a judgeship years earlier, because “openly racist statements disqualified him.” Sessions’ nomination by President Reagan was blocked by a Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee in 1986 after he was accused of making racist remarks during his time as US attorney in Alabama.
“Republicans would not stand with him because they did not believe that he could be an independent and fair federal judge,” Warren told the crowd.
As attorney general, she noted, he would be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, overseeing the civil rights division, enforcing laws around voting rights, immigration policy, and housing discrimination.
“There can be no compromise with racism,” Warren said. “There can be no negotiation with bigotry.”
Warren also spoke up for women earlier in the day, taking a swipe at Trump and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a Twitter post that showed that almost all of those Trump is believed to be considering for Cabinet positions are men.
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, was roundly mocked for having said that women’s groups brought him “whole binders full of women” to recruit women for his Cabinet as governor.
Romney is expected to meet with Trump this weekend, though he has openly opposed him and tried in vain to get the GOP to forsake him as the nominee. Asked about the meeting, Warren said: “I don’t know what Donald Trump is trying to do here. Is he just looking for some validation?” she said.
However, Warren added that she would find it “very difficult for a man who said the things, on videotape, that Mitt Romney said, to turn around and say he’s going to support him. I just don’t see how that happens. I genuinely cannot understand that.”
Warren’s appearance was timely for many of the women in the room who had been crushed to see Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee for a major party, lose to a man accused of denigrating, objectifying, and physically groping women.
“You’re in a room of women who’ve had a tough 10 days,” Ann Bookman, the director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, told Warren as she introduced her to the crowd as their “heroine.”
“This is exactly what a lot of us needed: to organize, gather our thoughts, and think about what we have to do to move forward,” said Emily Hajjar, a legislative aide on Beacon Hill. “It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we just have to fight even harder.”
Wearing a T-shirt that said “The future is female,” Bianca Ortiz-Wythe, said she felt the need to be surrounded by positive, active women who were willing to listen to others.
“We’re in for a long fight,” said Ortiz-Wythe, a doctoral student in public policy. “We need to look toward each other for support and solidarity.”
Warren used the disappointment as a motivator, saying activists’ work is more important than ever.
“The time for whimpering, the time for whining, the time for crying is over,” Warren told them. “It is time to fight back.”Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert