Scott Sessions

U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (center) and Jeff Sessions (right) met with criminal rehabilitation experts at North Charleston City Hall. Sessions, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, visited the Lowcountry at Scott’s invitation. File/Brian Hicks/Staff 

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney General, isn't making house calls on all his colleagues.

Just Tim Scott.

The man Trump nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Justice quietly slipped into town under the radar Thursday, where Scott took him to meetings with criminal justice professionals, North Charleston City Council members and local ministers who quizzed Sessions on the Michael Slager case.

The Slager grilling was to be expected after Vice President-elect Mike Pence refused to say whether the Trump administration would pursue charges against the former North Charleston police officer who shot and killed motorist Walter Scott.

Sen. Scott said he invited Sessions down to show him how the Charleston area has deftly dealt with crime and tragedy over the past two years — and how it handles diversity.

"Before I vote for him to be our attorney general, I want to know what's in his heart," Scott says, "not what he allegedly said back in 1986."

The U.S. Senate refused to confirm Sessions for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of reports of racially charged comments he allegedly made while a prosecutor in Alabama, so Scott is understandably being cautious.

But Scott said he was not auditioning Sessions, he was just doing his homework.

And Sessions, who hasn't visited any other senator's home turf, was wise enough to accept the invitation.

Intense conversation

Sessions politely declined an interview with The Post and Courier, as the president-elect has asked all his nominees to refrain from talking to the press.

But in a meeting with U.S. District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks, who presides over a federal drug court, and Amy Barch, who's Turning Leaf program rehabilitates violent criminals, Sessions showed himself to be the former prosecutor he is.

"If you can get 25 percent of hardcore criminals, or even 15 percent, to not re-offend, that is very good work," Sessions told Barch.

In a meeting with local ministers and police, Sessions was grilled on the question of Slager, who currently faces federal charges in connection with the shooting death of Walter Scott, who is no relation to the senator. A state jury deadlocked on murder charges earlier this month.

The Rev. Dexter Easley, pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Goose Creek, says Sessions did not give a definitive answer on whether he would prosecute Slager for violating Walter Scott's civil rights. Still, Easley walked away impressed.

"He didn't really say (what he'd do about Slager), but he wanted to take the heartbeat of the community," Easley says. "He was very attentive and interested, and I was impressed. And I would say if I wasn't."

If nothing else, meeting with Charleston clergy and law enforcement officials was a good practice run for Sessions, who faces a possibly contentious confirmation hearing in the Senate early next year.

Important vote

While Sessions has not visited any other senators in their home states since becoming the attorney general-nominee, it makes sense for him to give Tim Scott special attention.

Since Trump's announcement, Sessions has taken a thumping in the press over those alleged comments from decades ago. There were claims he called the NAACP and ACLU "un-American" and "Communist-inspired."

The Trump administration, already under fire for many of its Cabinet-level nominees, certainly doesn't want to see the only African-American Republican in the Senate vote against Sessions.

Scott says this is one of the most important votes he will take, and he won't take it lightly. And he still has not decided whether to support Sessions for attorney general.

"I have to feel confident the attorney general is going to do the right thing in all cases," Scott says. "This has more impact on our state, the rule of law and disenfranchised communities than any other Cabinet-level position. I just want to be open-minded and do my homework."

That's a reasonable and wise position for Scott to take.

Scott said Thursday evening that Sessions "did a good job today."

Whether that turns into an "aye" vote remains to be seen.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.