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Sen. Jeff Sessions will undergo a bruising confirmation process in his bid to become attorney general, but experts and conservative allies say the Alabama Republican’s firsthand experience on both sides of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation fights have prepared him well for his hearings, which begin Tuesday.

Democrats put a bull’s-eye on Sessions early with hopes of blocking him from serving in President-elect Trump’s administration and have resurrected accusations of racism that damaged Sessions’ reputation decades ago. Sessions lost a bid to become a federal judge in 1986 at the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dogged by claims from a former colleague that he made racially insensitive comments.

Since he was elected to the Senate in 1997, he has served on the Judiciary Committee, ascending to become the top Republican on the committee in 2009. William Smith, who served as chief counsel of the Senate Budget and Judiciary committees under Sessions, said the senator’s institutional knowledge and personal relationships will help ensure his confirmation.

“I don’t think the hearing’s going to be easy, but I think he’ll be easily confirmed,” Smith said. “He’s a lot smarter than the other members on the Judiciary Committee. So I think you’ll see him navigate this well.”

When Democrats look to tie Sessions to the president-elect, Smith said Sessions would be best served by pointing to his own record rather than trying to defend Trump. To that end, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network has started a nationwide public relations push to lead-block for the senator.

“All of the really ugly, personal mudslinging that Democrats have started to do is unfortunately not much of a surprise,” said Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel and policy director. “I think it took [Sessions’ team] by surprise during his judicial confirmation hearing, but when he accepted the [attorney general] job he knew that they were going to try to do the same thing again and this time, obviously, we want to be ready.”

Democrats have signaled they intend to attack Sessions as racially insensitive and will hear testimony from NAACP President Cornell Brooks, who was arrested while doing a sit-in in Sessions’ Alabama office this month. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and racial provocateur, plans to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

The Judicial Crisis Network is running a “mid-six figure” ad buy in three predominantly red states that feature Democratic senators whose seats will be up for grabs in 2018: Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Trump won all three states in the November 2016 election. The pro-Sessions ads are largely biographical and can be found at ConfirmSessions.com, a website set up by the Judicial Crisis Network to combat criticism of Sessions.

Ken Blackwell, the head of Trump’s domestic transition team, said he believes Democrats have tipped their hand on forthcoming attacks and Sessions will be ready.

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“When you have a guy like Jeff Sessions that has become the target of an all-out campaign against him because he is from the South, because he is white, because he is a practicing Christian, and is a conservative Republican, then you see the viciousness of the system,” Blackwell said. “But this has been anticipated and I know that it won’t stand and that he’ll get through the process.”

Conservatives’ plan to defend Sessions is bolstered by the personnel the Trump team has dedicated to readying the senator for the confirmation battles. Republican strategist Sarah Isgur Flores, who served as Carly Fiorina’s deputy presidential campaign manager, is serving as Sessions’ spokeswoman throughout the confirmation process. Chuck Cooper, a former assistant attorney general in President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, has also helped Sessions plan for the hearings.

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