AG Nominee Sessions Shocked by DOJ’s Wire Act Interpretation

January 11th, 2017 | by Brian Corlisse
Jeff Sessions Wire Act poker.

Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions may reverse the DOJ’s 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act, but not before battling allegations of racism. (Image: Images)

Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions was “shocked” by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act.

Following a requests by the states of New York and Illinois for clarification of the 1961 Wire Act with regards to online poker, the DOJ obliged.

Although online poker wasn’t a reality when the Wire Act was first written, some suggested that its reference to “gambling” meant it should include all games of chance where the wagering of money is involved.

Poker Doesn’t Count

On the flip side, other’s argued that the Wire Act was only designed to cover sports and, additionally, wire communications via the telephone. Taking these arguments into account, the DOJ concluded that online poker was not covered by the act and, therefore, couldn’t be used to prevent state regulated industries.

“Interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event of contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act,” read the official DOJ statement from 2011.

With Sessions required to answer questions during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on January 10, the issue of the Wire Act and the 2011 decision was broached. Although a small issue sandwiched between more serious allegations of racism and civil rights infringements, Sessions did say that he was “shocked” by the interpretation and may revisit it if he’s confirmed as AG.

Sessions Has Bigger Fish to Fry

Although the Poker Players Alliance has been quick to respond with an open letter, it’s worth noting that Sessions has a number of more pressing issues he’ll have to address should he become AG. In addition to protests outside the Senate confirmation hearing, Senator Cory Booker testified against his political colleague.

Speaking to MSNBC’s All In on January 9, Booker explained that he took the unprecedented decision to stand against Session’s nomination due to his previous stance against key parts of the Voting Rights Act.

“He has a posture and a positioning that I think represent a real danger to our country,” Booker told MSNBC on January 9.

Throughout his political career, Sessions has been accused of blocking the expansion of rights for minority communities, including African Americans as well as gays and lesbians. Additionally, Sessions has taken a hard-line stance on immigration, both illegal and legal, and many believe this could fuel “discrimination” in the US if he becomes AG.

For his part, Sessions addressed the issue almost immediately during the hearing by refuting allegations that he used a racial slur against an Alabamian official in 1981. He also went on to say that he is against the historical attempts to limit the voting rights of African Americans.

“I’m against the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters,” read Sessions’ prepared remarks obtained by NBC.

With some serious issues needing to be addressed before he can assume his role as AG, the Wire Act and online poker will no doubt be pretty low down on his lists of priorities.

In fact, even if he does get round to reviewing the decision in 2017, he would face a mountain of opposition if he did decide he wants to revise the current interpretation.


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