The father of a slain Muslim American soldier who spoke out against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election urged senators on Monday not to confirm the president-elect's pick for attorney general.
Khizr Khan, whose son Capt. Humayun S. Khan died in Iraq in 2004 when he stopped an explosive-laden vehicle from entering a US Army compound, said he did not believe Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions would uphold civil rights.
"As a grateful patriot citizen, I must voice my concerns, timely and loudly, on behalf of our beloved nation that the civil rights progress we have made thus far is threatened by this nominee for the office of the chief law enforcement officer of our nation," Khan wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senators will convene Tuesday to begin considering Trump's cabinet picks, including Sessions, whose nomination has sparked concerns among some because of his conservative views on social justice issues.
In his letter on Monday, Khan highlighted the fact that Sessions' nomination to be a federal judge in the 1980s was rejected, in part because of allegations he had made racist remarks — something he denied.
But Khan instead highlighted Sessions' career as a state prosecutor and the case he unsuccessfully brought against black activists, accusing them of voter fraud.
"[The senate] rejected Mr. Sessions in part because he used the power of his office as a US Attorney to prosecute community activists who helped poor and elderly people exercise their right to vote," Khan wrote, adding that Sessions had criticized the Voting Rights Act as a lawmaker.
The Pakistani-born attorney also criticized Sessions' ties to what he said were racist and anti-Muslim groups.
"The most minimal standard for leading the Department of Justice must be a demonstrated commitment to pursuing justice for all Americans. Mr. Sessions fails to meet that standard," Khan wrote. "Americans deserve better."
Separately, 100 black faith leaders released a letter on Monday opposing Sessions, arguing he is a "grave threat to the civil rights of the communities...[they] serve as faith leaders."
Representatives for Sessions and the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the president-elect has previously described the senator as "a world-class legal mind" who is "greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
Humayun S. Khan’s story of heroism and sacrifice was elevated to public prominence when his parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention against Trump’s comments on Muslims.
Following the speech, Trump began a public feud with the fallen soldier’s parents, prompting widespread condemnation, including from members of his own party.
Sessions' nomination also came under fire on Monday from Judy Shepard, whose gay son, Matthew, was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998.
In a Human Rights Campaign report, Shepard blasted Sessions for opposing a 2009 federal hate crime law that is partly named for her son.
"Senator Sessions' repeated efforts to diminish the life-changing acts of violence covered by the Hate Crimes Prevention Act horrified me then, as a parent who knows the true cost of hate, and it terrifies me today to see that this same person is now being nominated as the country's highest authority to represent justice and equal protection under the law for all Americans," she wrote.