SPONSORED:

Trump taps Sessions for AG

Trump taps Sessions for AG
© Getty Images

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE has selected Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE (R-Ala.) to serve as his attorney general, Trump's transition team announced Friday morning. 

Sessions becomes the first person selected by Trump to a Cabinet-level position in the new administration. In doing so, Trump selected one of his most loyal supporters and a senator whose border-security positions predated Trump's candidacy. 

“Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years,” Trump said in a statement. “He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

The 69-year-old Alabama Republican was the first senator to endorse Trump's White House bid. Two of his top staffers have become key players in Trump's orbit on the campaign and the transition team. 

That loyalty has gone a long way with Trump: A source told The Hill ahead of the announcement that Sessions had his pick of Cabinet spots

ADVERTISEMENT

The two men met at Trump Tower on Wednesday, with Trump specifically highlighting the senator's "phenomenal record."

In the statement from Trump’s transition team, Sessions said he is “humbled” to have been chosen for the job. 

“My previous 15 years working in the Department of Justice were extraordinarily fulfilling. I love the Department, its people and its mission. I can think of no greater honor than to lead them,” he said.

If confirmed, Sessions would succeed Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman to serve as the nation's top law enforcement official.

But Democratic opposition to Sessions is already beginning, signaling the potential for a rocky path to confirmation. 

Past controversies touching on race will dominate the discussion surrounding Sessions, who would preside over an agency with responsibilities to protect civil rights. 

Thirty years ago, Sessions was denied a federal judge position over allegations that he had called the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union "un-American" and said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was "OK, until he learned they smoked marijuana." 

Sessions has vehemently denied the claims, but Democrats are already pointing to the accusations as disqualifying. 

David Axelrod, President Obama's former senior adviser, blasted Sessions’s selection on Twitter, arguing the appointment will "send chills to advocates of civil and immigrant rights." 

The leader of the liberal Democracy for America issued a statement that said Sessions was barely more qualified to lead the Justice Department than a member of the KKK.

“The handful of people who might be even less equipped than Jeff Sessions to dispense justice on behalf of the American people typically spend their weekends wearing pointy hats and burning crosses,” Democracy for American executive director Charles Chamberlain said.

Sessions was a vocal critic of Obama's immigration reform efforts.

Defenders of Sessions argue he has a better record on civil rights than he receives credit for.

Supporters point to his vote in favor of a 30-year extension of the Civil Rights Act, for example, or multiple desegregation lawsuits he filed as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.
 
Sessions in April 1999, meanwhile, led efforts to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon and Alabama native.

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller told reporters that Sessions is "very well qualified" for the position on a Friday conference call. 

He brushed aside concerns about Sessions’s earlier scuttled confirmation, noting that the senator filed a number of desegregation lawsuits while working in the Justice Department, voted for the Civil Rights Act's extension and backed Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors First redistricting lawsuits filed by Democratic group On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history MORE, the first black attorney general.

"We feel very confident that Sen. Sessions has the background and the support to receive confirmation," Miller added. 

Sessions’s pick has so far been greeted warmly by Republican senators, who will have to sign off on the nomination. The Alabama senator will have to pass through the Judiciary Committee, a feat he could not accomplish during his 1986 appointment, and then get confirmed by the Senate by winning a simple majority of senators. 

There are currently 51 Republicans in the Senate and 48 Democrats, with Republicans expected to pick up another seat after a December runoff in Louisiana. Sessions is generally well-liked by his colleagues, and it's likely they will confirm him — especially because of the 51-vote threshold. 

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Cindy McCain: Arizona election audit is 'ludicrous' The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (R-Ariz.), one of Trump's more vocal GOP opponents throughout the election, said he would back Sessions. 

And other top Republican senators have signaled through statements they'll vote for him, too, including Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThere will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 MORE (Texas) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (Iowa). 

Sessions has represented Alabama in the Senate for nearly 20 years, and his appointment would leave a vacancy in the ruby-red state.  

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFormer CEO Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia GOP gubernatorial convention The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts MORE (Texas), Trump's main rival in the Republican presidential primary, had been interested in the role, too. Cruz met with Trump on Tuesday, and while the senator has publicly demurred when asked about his interest in the position, he privately told those close to him that he was interested in serving as Trump's attorney general. 

Cruz quickly released a statement lauding Sessions's nomination as "great news for all of us who revere the Constitution and the rule of law" soon after the selection broke. 

Trump on Friday also announced retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to lead the CIA

Jonathan Swan contributed. Updated at 2 p.m.