This interview is the follow-up to the Exclusive Fireside Chat between Senator Jones and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA President and CEO
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
President Donald Trump should seek Congressional approval before engaging U.S. military personnel into any conflicts with Iran, or any other nation, according to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).
Jones spent a great deal of time on Wednesday, January 8, speaking exclusively with the Black Press of America.
The outspoken senator, who stunned Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 special election because of a large African American voter turnout, conceded that the president should act without the consent of Congress only if it’s to defend the United States.
In an interview that tackled several pressing topics, Jones said he “absolutely agreed” that voting rights are under attack all over the country.
“Access to the ballot box is the key. It has got to be fairly easy to register to vote these days but getting to cast a vote is what’s getting harder and harder,” Jones stated.
“And, that is because of purging voter rolls; because of closing polling places; and convenient polling places and moving them. Those are the kinds of things that are causing some real concerns, and access to the ballot box is causing concerns,” he stated.
Further, Jones added that it’s “past the time” for the Senate to do something about voting rights.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see that on the horizon as long as the Senate is controlled the way it’s controlled now,” Jones stated.
The senator has pushed H.R. 1, legislation that addresses voter access, election integrity, and election security. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has refused to bring the bill up for consideration.
Jones, who penned the 2019 book, “Bending Toward Justice,” about the 1963 Alabama Church Bombing, has a long history of civil rights.
As a law student, he sat in on the 1977 trial of the first bomber prosecuted, Robert “Dynamite” Bob Chambliss.
“I think growing up in the South and coming of age in the 1960s and early 1970s, you just open your eyes to a lot of things,” Jones stated.
“And, that’s pretty much what happened to me. I started in my early years. I went to an integrated school system, which was the first in my city, and you know kids, kids adapted a lot better than our parents did,” he stated.
“You tend to make sure that you get a sense that all people have the same rights. And, we’re all equal in God. And, you have to act that way and not just talk about it.”
It’s also why Jones has remained committed to assuring equal voting rights. He agreed that the 2020 election is crucial for America’s future and believes his party does have viable candidates.
“I think we’ve got to get candidates who are committed to their principles and committed to talking about issues that we have in common,” Jones stated. “I’m absolutely convinced across the South, and across the county, that we have so much more to come.”
Democrats cannot allow others to define them, Jones added.
“And, we stepped out, I think in 2017, to say, ‘we’re not going to let that happen here, or here is what I believe. Here are my principles. I’m going to listen, and I will be respectful. And, we’re going to see if we can find common ground,’” Jones stated.
“And, we were able to do that in 2017, and I think more candidates that do that, you’re going to establish a voice. Things will not change overnight,” he stated.
While Republicans have stood idle without challenging the president, Jones stated that Democrats hadn’t carried themselves much differently.
“I think there is,” Jones said, responding to whether Republicans have a fear of Trump.
“But, let me also add this: you rarely see Democrats standing up for the president when he does things the right way. And, I think we’ve got to get beyond that because, if we don’t work together, we’re never going to get anything done,” he stated.
Jones said bipartisanship is the way to go, and that’s evident by successful legislation passed across party lines to eliminate the widow’s tax for servicemen and women, and the Futures Act, which guaranteed funding for historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.
“We’ve got to work together. I’d like to see more Republicans standing up and speaking out when the president does some things that clearly give Republicans, colleagues of mine, a lot of heartburn,” Jones stated.
“I don’t think Democrats should be afraid politically to simply say, ‘I agree with the president.’ It’s time to move forward. Let’s work together,” he stated.
With Trump’s impeachment trial looming over the Senate, Jones was asked if the president could receive a fair trial without witnesses.
“His definition of a fair trial maybe a little bit different than mine. He will have his counsel to cross-examine witnesses,” Jones stated. “The president complained about not being able to cross-examine the witnesses in the House. Well, if witnesses are called in the Senate, he would be able to cross-examine them. I think the American public deserves a fair trial. And by that, I mean, they deserve to have a complete picture with as much information as possible, and that includes people like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and others who have direct knowledge of these instances.”
“I don’t know what they would testify to, but I think we should hear from them. Let the House managers examine them and let the president’s lawyers examine them and let the chips fall,” Jones stated.
The confidence of Americans is vital for the impeachment process, and Jones is wary of a tainted trial.
“The last thing that we need is to have new evidence dribble out over the next year leading up to the election, whether it’s in a committee hearing, whether it’s leaks, or whether it’s in a book that somebody writes,” he stated.
“We need to have that information now so that we are all working off the same set of facts.”
Finally, Jones noted that the conflict with Iran is troublesome in that Trump hasn’t sought any guidance or feedback from lawmakers.
“Well, I don’t think the president is going to take any other military action unless it’s a purely defensive action. He needs to come to Congress pursuant to the War Powers Act,” Jones stated.
“I think there needs to be a review of authorization for the use of military force, and I think he needs to involve Congress a lot more. Look, [Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem] Soleimani was a bad guy, and the world is not going to miss him. He was a treacherous, ruthless human being. But, at the same time, the president and his administration should have consulted with the leaders of Congress in my opinion.”