President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions as his attorney general pick.
It’s an unsurprising pick — Sessions was one of Trump’s longest and most loyal defenders throughout the course of his campaign, as the first sitting senator to endorse Trump and a key policy adviser to the president-elect. Sessions’ name has been floated as a potential pick for Attorney General since Trump was elected, though there was some question over whether Sessions would accept the offer.
His name was also previously floated as a possible running mate for Trump.
Sessions is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and is an immigration hardliner who has been a longtime advocate of building a border wall. When he first endorsed Trump, Sessions praised the then-GOP contender as someone who would finally fix illegal immigration.
"Donald Trump will do it," he said at the time — and the border wall has become a major plank of Trump’s immigration plan.
And many of Sessions’ top staffers worked for Trump’s campaign in prominent roles and continue to do so in the transition. Stephen Miller, a communications and policy adviser to Sessions, became Trump’s top policy adviser; Rick Dearborn, Sessions’ chief of staff, is now leading the transition team.
As a current member of the Senate, it's unlikely that Sessions' Republican colleagues will try to block his confirmation. Indeed, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he was “confident” Sessions would make it out of his committee.
"Senator Sessions is a respected member and former Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee who has worked across the aisle on major legislation. He knows the Justice Department as a former U.S. attorney, which would serve him very well in this position,” he said.
With this background, I'm confident he would be reported favorably out of the committee.”
But Democrats and liberal groups are focusing on Sessions' stances on civil and voting rights as well as his controversial past.
"If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man," Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, said in a statement on Friday. "No Senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Friday in a statement, that while he has concerns about Sessions' stances and background, he believes the lawmakers should receive a hearing so that the American public can learn more about him.
In the 1980s, Sessions was considered for a Ronald Reagan-appointed federal district judgeship in Alabama, but was blocked by the Senate after a black former deputy, Thomas Figures, accused him of making racially insensitive statements. Figures said that Sessions had once warned him to be careful about what he said to "white folks."
Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama, also testified that during a 1981 murder investigation tied to the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions commented that he "used to think they [the KKK] were OK" until he found out some were "pot smokers." Sessions claimed he had been joking.
Sessions first became a senator in 1997. The committees he has served on include the armed services, judiciary, and budget committees, among others.