Doug Jones BRHS classroom

Benjamin Russell students speak with Sen. Doug Jones during a video chat Thursday morning. Students were prepared to ask Jones a number of questions. 

Benjamin Russell students asked Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) about border security, the lottery, his vote on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and impeachment Thursday. John Fussell’s government and economics class held a teleconference with Jones and asked him prepared questions on his stances and why he voted for certain things in the U.S. Senate.

Michael Ann Wellborn said the class was originally going to study the Russell Corp. shutdowns in Alexander City but switched to talking about Jones. Charlee Ann Peppers said students were given two weeks to research Jones, write a two-page biography and fact sheet on him and give Fussell 10 questions they wanted to ask Jones.

“We said it’s an important way to get involved as young people and that we won’t have another opportunity to do that face-to-face especially with a senator,” Peppers said.

Fussell took his favorite questions from the students and complied them on a list for them to ask Jones. 

Jones told the students he wants to talk to high school classes around the state and he is on the banking, housing and urban affairs committee; health, education, labor and pensions committee; and armed services committee.

When Jones opened the floor for additional student questions, Bri Peters asked if he had a plan to make teaching more attractive to minorities. Jones responded the Senate introduced a bill called “Grow Your Own,” which is a grant program that attempts to get teachers from rural areas into classrooms.

“That’s recruiting in high schools and junior highs,” Jones said. “This is a program that’s been done in a couple of states in the country through state governments.”

Jackson Ray asked about adding a state lottery. Jones laughed and said he’s been in favor of a lottery before he was voted into the Senate.

“That’s really a State of Alabama question and you got a legislature and that hasn’t come though Montgomery, the state legislature, the governor and the lieutenant governor,” Jones said. “They’re going to be the ones to push it and there’s a lot of pushback and I can’t quite figure it out.”

Ty Brown asked about his views on border security and the wall that’s being built between the U.S.- Mexico border. Jones said while he wants increased border security, he doesn’t think anyone can sufficiently explain the border wall.

“You can’t build a wall from Texas to California across the border that includes going right down the middle of the Rio Grande River,” Jones said. “What I’ve talked about in terms of border security is with some barriers in the appropriate places fortifying some of the barriers that we have now, but also increasing our technology and our ability to stop things and stop both people and others who are coming across the border at the right way.”

Jones doesn’t think border security is a national emergency and the money appropriated for the border wall project should be used on military bases.

“I don’t believe that we should divert money that Congress has appropriated for military construction projects,” Jones said.

Megan Harris asked if being in favor of same-sex marriage conflicts with his Christian beliefs. Jones said he thinks the teachings of the Bible and Christ are compatible with same-sex marriage.

“I understand there are people who have a different set of values with that and they look at things a different way but I think that we have to take care of all of our brothers and sisters regardless,” Jones said.

Fussell told Jones his students don’t agree on same-sex marriage but they all treat each other’s views respectfully. Jones said that’s needed for working together and in politics.

Brett Pitts asked Jones why he didn’t vote for Kavanaugh after President Donald Trump nominated him. Jones said he has voted for 70% of Trump’s judicial picks but he didn’t like the investigation for Kavanaugh or how the justice behaved during his hearings. 

“I looked at folks in the business community who were really in favor of Justice Kavanaugh and you got to remember this: When it comes to a Supreme Court nominee it was not like he was the only justice who had qualifications to be on the Supreme Court,” Jones said. “There were a ton of people. I had seen the list, including an Alabama judge.

“When I talked to businesses and I said, ‘If somebody had interviewed with you and acted that way and had a temperament that way, you would have never hired them knowing there was this pool of candidates out there that’s a mile wide and a mile deep and also if you hired him you couldn’t fire him.’”

Marco Lopez asked if the reason some Democrats want to impeach Trump is because they see him as a threat to the 2020 presidential election. Jones said that is not true and there are only a few people who have wanted to impeach Trump since the beginning of his presidency.

“I will be the first to admit that there are people in the Democratic Party who have been very, very partisan in the past and they wanted to see Donald Trump impeached from the moment he took his hand off the Bible when he was sworn in,” Jones said. “This is not a Democratic agenda. It’s not some socialist agenda. It is a very, very disturbing fact pattern.”

Jones has not made a judgment about what could happen if the House of Representatives impeach the president or if he’ll have to vote to remove Trump from the White House.

Jones said Americans should be concerned because he believes Trump is using his office in such a manner to advance his own personal political agenda and not the security and interests of the country. Jones wants to judge the impeachment fairly and with an open mind.

Kathryn Crutchfield followed up by asking what Jones thought of what Trump did with the Ukraine call compared to what former Vice President Joe Biden did by threatening to withhold money to the country unless they fired a prosecutor. Jones replied the European Union was also concerned about the prosecutor.

“There was nothing to indicate that that had anything to do with any of the vice president’s son or the son’s company,” Jones said. “It’s interesting to me that folks are raising that issue about what the vice president did at that time, but from 2017 after President Trump was elected at least through 2018, the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, they controlled the Senate and they controlled the White House. 

“And there was not a word about corruption in Ukraine at that point; there was not a word about investigating the Bidens. It was only after Joe Biden announced that he was running for president in April that all of a sudden this got on the radar screen of the Trump administration and particularly Rudi Giuliani.”

Jones told the students they asked great questions and encouraged them to volunteer with the 2020 U.S. Census. He wants them to get engaged in public service to help people.

“I don’t think (the teleconference) was as controversial as I expected it to be with some people’s questions because some people’s questions were blunt and he handled it really, really well,” Wellborn said. “I think my classmates and I handled it very well too.”