Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was grilled about his beliefs in an hours-long confirmation hearing in Congress on January 10.
The confirmation hearing is for the Senate to ask the pick questions on her or his character and opinions before allowing a pick to take a position.
In a 2005 video released last October during a taping of "Access Hollywood," Trump said,
You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
Grabbing or kissing a woman without waiting for her consent is the definition of sexual assault.
In October, Sessions was asked about the video.
Sessions told the Weekly Standard,
I don't characterize that as sexual assault. I think that's a stretch. I don't know what he meant.
The reporter followed up, asking,
So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that's not sexual assault?
I don't know. It's not clear that he — how that would occur.
During the confirmation hearing on January 10, Senator Patrick Leahy asked Sessions about his previous comments.
Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, asked simply,
Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without her consent — is that sexual assault?
Clearly, it would be.
Clearly, someone learned a lesson this year.
Leahy followed up, asking Sessions if he would be able to prosecute and investigate a sitting president or other high federal official "accused of committing what the president-elect described."
Sessions skirted around the question, using passive language. He said,
The president is subject to certain lawful restrictions and they would be required to be applied by the appropriate law enforcement official if appropriate, yes.
Leahy did not back down.
He followed up again, asking,
The conduct described, based on the description, would be sexual assault?
At this question, which was basically the same as Leahy's first on the issue, Sessions stumbled, clearly not wanting to accuse Trump of assault (which a dozen women already have done). Sessions said,
Well, the confusion about the question was a hypothetical question, and it related to what was said on the tape. I did not remember, at the time, whether this was suggested to be an unaccepted, unwanted... would certainly meet the definition, if that's what the tapes said, then, that would be, um —
Leahy interrupted him, clarifying,
My question is very simple: Is grabbing a woman by her genitals, without consent, is that sexual assault?
Sessions finally answered,
Leahy thanked him.
Citations: Sessions Voices Opposition to Muslim Immigration Ban (U.S. News), Sessions pledges to respect Roe v. Wade decision despite personal beliefs (CNN), GOP Senator Says Grabbing A Woman's Genitals Is Not Sexual Assault (Huffington Post), Jeff Sessions: Behavior Described by Trump in 'Grab Them by the P---y' Tape Isn't Sexual Assault (Weekly Standard)