Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions Picked For Attorney General

Alabama's Jeff Sessions will become the nation's top law enforcement officer. That's not a good thing.

Jeff Sessions Donald Trump

Things have been moving forward today with the President-Elect’s transition team this morning. Along with the announcement that retired Lt. General Mike Flynn and Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo would be appointed to be National Security Adviser and C.I.A. Director respectively, it’s been announced that Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has been selected to be Attorney General:

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama who became a close adviser after endorsing him early in his campaign, to be the attorney general of the United States, according to officials close to the transition.

Mr. Sessions was also under consideration for secretary of defense, creating debate within the Trump transition team over which job he should fill.

Mr. Sessions, a former prosecutor elected to the Senate in 1996, serves on the Judiciary Committee and has opposed immigration reform as well as bipartisan proposals to cut mandatory minimum prison sentences.

While Mr. Sessions is well liked in the Senate, his record as United States attorney in Alabama in the 1980s is very likely to become an issue for Democrats and civil rights groups expected to give it close scrutiny.

While serving as a United States prosecutor in Alabama, Mr. Sessions was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. But his nomination was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of racially charged comments and actions. At that time, he was one of two judicial nominees whose selections were halted by the panel in nearly 50 years.

In testimony before the committee, former colleagues said that Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” An African-American federal prosecutor then, Thomas H. Figures, said Mr. Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and testified that Mr. Sessions said the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Mr. Sessions dismissed that remark as a joke.

Mr. Sessions was also accused of speaking disparagingly of the Voting Rights Act and the stringent oversight it placed on Southern states.

As noted, Sessions was among the first elected Republicans, and the first Senator, to endorse Trump during the Republican primaries so it’s no surprise that he’s being rewarded with a top Cabinet position. Additionally, the fact that he’s from a generally safe red state means that it’s highly likely that his replacement in the Senate will be another Republican, whether that replacement is selected by the state’s Republican Governor or subject to a Special Election at a later date. Just as an indication of this, it’s worth noting that Sessions ran completely unopposed in both the Primary and General Elections in 2014. It also pretty much guarantees that he will be confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate notwithstanding the controversies that surrounded his attempted nomination to a Federal Judgeship in the 1980s. No doubt, of course, Democrats will seek to bring these issues up again and question Sessions regarding how he may handle issues related to civil rights and race relations as Attorney General, but the fact that there is essentially no longer a filibuster for Cabinet appointments means that Sessions confirmation is a virtual certainty absent the discovery of something more recent that might disqualify him from serving as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Notwithstanding the political fact that Sessions is likely to be easily confirmed, there are several reasons to be concerned about him taking this position and what it means for several important areas of the law. A Sessions-led Justice Department, for example, is much less likely to pursue cases involving police abuse or racial disparities in policing such as those that we have seen in recent years in places ranging from Ferguson, Missouri and Cleveland, Ohio to Charleston, South Carolina and New York City. They’re also less likely to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act against actions by states that have an adverse impact on the ability of minorities to vote, such as the plethora of Voter Identification Laws that have been adopted in recent years. This change in policy could also have an impact on redistricting at the state level after the 2020 Census and the impact it has on minority political power in Congress. Sessions previously and long-stated opposition to same-sex marriage is also likely to impact Federal enforcement of any relevant legislation impacting LGBT individuals at the state level. Additionally, the rise of the Trump Administration as a whole and a Justice Department led by Sessions will likely deal a setback to efforts to reform the nation’s sentencing laws, an effort which has been bipartisan but faced opposition from ultra-conservatives such as Sessions and largely opposed by Trump and his supporters. Meanwhile, we’re likely to see a Justice Department that focuses on made up problems like pornography rather than real issues facing the country, much as we did under Ed Meese and John Ashcroft.

Elections have consequences, my friends.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    So we have a cut rate General Jack D. Ripper for NSA, a Dominionist Christian evangelical for Ambassador to Israel and an unreconstructed Southern racist for AG. The hits just keep on coming …

  2. SKI says:
  3. Moosebreath says:

    “Notwithstanding the political fact that Sessions is likely to be easily confirmed, there are several reasons to be concerned about him taking this position and what it means for several important areas of the law. A Sessions-led Justice Department, for example, is much less likely to pursue cases involving police abuse or racial disparities in policing such as those that we have seen in recent years in places ranging from Ferguson, Missouri and Cleveland, Ohio to Charleston, South Carolina and New York City. They’re also less likely to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act against actions by states that have an adverse impact on the ability of minorities to vote, such as the plethora of Voter Identification Laws that have been adopted in recent years.”

    These are features, not bugs.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    A Sessions-led Justice Department, for example, is much less likely to pursue cases involving police abuse or racial disparities in policing…

    Indeed, the Justice Department will now praise cops who kill unarmed black men, or as Sessions would call them, racial agitating boys…

  5. Davebo says:

    but the fact that there is essentially no longer a filibuster for Cabinet appointments means that Sessions confirmation is a virtual certainty absent the discovery of something more recent that might disqualify him

    True, which is pretty sad considering it was Republicans that rejected his Federal Judge appointment by Reagan.

    Then again, those were the “old Republicans”.

  6. SKI says:
  7. grumpy realist says:

    Yeah, that “outreach to minorities” is going really great, isn’t it. And hasn’t Trump promised that he’s going to get 90% of the black vote the next time around?

    On the other hand, noises are being made that Trump will settle the Trump U. suits for $20-25M rather than go to court. (If I were a claimant I wouldn’t sign ANYTHING until the ENTIRE money is put in escrow and I’m damn certain I’d actually get it.)

    Whee, here we are on the merry-go-round….

  8. J-Dub says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The NSA director is Adm. Mike Rogers, not expected to be replaced.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Most racist and ignorant Cabinet in modern history.
    Medieval times are upon us.

  10. pylon says:

    @J-Dub: Trump has announced he is appointing Flynn as NSA director.

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @J-Dub:

    NSA as in National Security Advisor …

  12. Scott says:

    @pylon: Flynn is being appointed National Security Advisor, a White House position, not the National Security Agency director.

  13. Tony W says:

    Next up – Sarah Palin as Education Secretary

  14. Pch101 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yeah, that “outreach to minorities” is going really great, isn’t it.

    The rights of Anglos and Saxons will be protected.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Scott:

    NSA director is a tri-hatted position and must be filled by an actively serving commissioned officer. He/she also isn’t identified by the president; candidates for the position are recommended by SecDEF in consultation with the DNI. The president submits their recommendation to the Senate for confirmation.

    I agree though, Mike Rogers almost certainly won’t be going anywhere.

  16. CSK says:

    @Tony W:

    Palin is apparently under consideration for sec’y of the interior.

  17. MikeSJ says:

    I expect things will be fine with Sessions, just as long as people, well, know their place and don’t start acting…you know…all uppity.

    By the way, to all those people who voted for Stein and Johnson, I hope you’re happy.

  18. Argon says:

    GAHHH!!!!!!

    Must… stop… following… then news but can’t! Frack!

  19. LaMont says:

    I think I speak for all African Americans when I say that I feel like I’m in the f**ckin twilight zone!!!

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Pch101:

    The rights of Anglos and Saxons will be protected.

    Libturd Saxon lover.

  21. dxq says:

    obama was multiculturalism incarnate. So the response was a white nationalist backlash. For his cabinet picks, it’s klansman, klansman, klansman….

  22. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    It’s The Joy of Sax.

  23. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tony W: all signs point to Michelle Rhee, another dumpster fire…

  24. Rick Zhang says:

    It’s a sign of the times when Sessions is one of the more sane people in the Trump camp. Compared to others, his faults are mainly with comments and opinions, not so much actions. He’s certainly much more benign than Bannon, for example. Save your outrage for the far more dangerous people who are about to be nominated.

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @LaMont: It’s amazing how we’re rapidly moving from “No Drama Obama” to a presidency which (I have no doubt) will rival certain presidencies of the past for its sleeziness, stupidity, lack of prudence, and corruption.

    “God has given Us the Papacy; let Us enjoy it.” (said by Leo X IIRC…)

    I guess we’ll see just how incompetent certain white men can be….

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    Palin is apparently under consideration for sec’y of the interior.

    I was about to suggest that as a joke, followed by “…but Education could go to Michelle Bachman.”

    I should know better by now. Jesus Haploid Christ.

  27. Bookdragon says:

    Marve!ous. Trump’s administration won’t have to actively engage in purges or violence against minorities; all they have to do is turn a blind eye and let the KKK and neo-Nazis do whatever the fk they want.

    Between Bannon and Sessions they could hardly signal that intent more clearly.

  28. CSK says:

    This is interesting. Senator Susan Collins, who refused to vote for Trump and made clear her distaste for him, spoke glowingly of Sessions today. This may flummox the Trumpkins, who despise Collins.

  29. rachel says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Compared to others, his faults are mainly with comments and opinions, not so much actions. He’s certainly much more benign than Bannon, for example. Save your outrage for the far more dangerous people who are about to be nominated.

    Since he’s going to be given rein to follow his awful “comments and opinions” with actions, no.

  30. de stijl says:

    There are at least 350 Republicans named Jeff I would have chosen to be AG rather than Sessions.

    Likewise, there are at least ten thousand Republicans named Michael that I would have chosen to be National Security Advisor before Flynn (Really? Flynn for NSA? I swear These Guys want a final war with Islam on principle. Seriously, you want a square shooter / lay out all the options person as NSA, not someone who is an advocate for Armageddon.)

    But then again, I’m not the President-elect. Trump is. Neither I, nor you, get to choose the Cabinet and senior advisors. (Or heavens preserve us, Supreme Court nominees.) We will have at least four years of this.

    —–

    The Burn It All Down folks and the Heighten the Contradictions crowd will surely get a full plate. Eat up.

    These are dark days.

  31. Hal_10000 says:

    Sessions isn’t BS-crazy but he would not be someone I’d pick. His racist remarks were 30-40 years ago and I could maybe accept that he’s grown since then (see, e.g., Byrd, Robert). What’s far moe alarming is his stance on LE issues. Vehement opponent of criminal justice reform. Vehement supporter of asset forfeiture. Unlikely to continue civil rights investigations into police departments. Bad news.

    But … silver lining here … at least he won’t be a Senator anymore.

    Also .. what’s going to be the average age of this cabinet? 65? 70? 85?

  32. davod says:

    “Sessions’s actual track record certainly doesn’t suggest he’s a racist. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.”

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/in-alabama-jeff-sessions-desegregated-schools-and-got-the-death-penalty-for-kkk-head/article/2005461

  33. wr says:

    @davod: Wow. He actually prosecuted someone who murdered a black guy for no reason? He can’t be a racist!!!!

    Wondering if you can set the bar any lower here…

  34. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    @davod: Don’t be foolish.

    What Sessions allegedly said 30 years ago is far more relevant today than what he actually did 20 years ago.

  35. Barry says:

    @CSK: “Palin is apparently under consideration for sec’y of the interior.”

    My money will be on a high-ranking executive of an extractive industry company. Palin is a biddable pr*stitute, but for serious looting they’ll need a competent, hard-working executive.

  36. Barry says:

    @Hal_10000: ” His racist remarks were 30-40 years ago and I could maybe accept that he’s grown since then (see, e.g., Byrd, Robert).”

    Byrd walked the walk. What has Sessions done?

  37. Barry says:

    @davod: “As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama.”

    When was Brown v Board of Education?

  38. Pch101 says:

    Sessions tried to prosecute civil rights activists who were registering voters in rural black areas in Alabama.

    In 1985, when he was U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Sessions’ office brought indictments over allegations of voter fraud in a number of Black Belt counties, an area in Alabama named for the color of the soil but with a majority black population. In Perry County, Sessions’ office charged three individuals with voting fraud, including Albert Turner, a long-time civil rights activist who advised Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped lead the voting rights March in Selma on March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday” after state troopers and a local posse attacked the protestors…

    …A jury of seven blacks and five whites acquitted the defendants of all charges. The presiding judge threw out more than half of the charges for lack of evidence before the jury received the case.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/11/18/black-belt-voter-fraud-case-alabama-shaped-sen-jeff-sessions-career/94088186

    Of course, there are a few people who post here and more than a few Republicans who would see that sort of voter suppression effort as a feature, not a bug.

  39. bill says:

    sounds like a racist to me…..i wonder if he ever had actual KKK members that he called friends and mentors, like hillary did?

    Sessions’ office investigated the 1981 killing of Michael Donald, a young African-American man who was murdered in Mobile, Alabama by a pair of Ku Klux Klan members. Both men were arrested and convicted

  40. stonetools says:

    Jefferson Buearegard Sessions III is a racist .
    He showed this by the racist remarks he made before he sought higher office. When he was denied higher office because of those remarks, he did what many racists do and stopped making racist remarks in public.
    Nothing in political career indicates to me that he has repudiated his racism, like Senator Byrd did. On the contrary, everything indicates that he will be anti Civil Rights. That he has has been put in charge of the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights is terrifying to me as an African American. Unlike many, I literally have skin in the game.
    What should remove all doubt is the team he’s joining.

    Bannon, an unabashed white supremacist.
    Flynn, an anti Muslim bigot and conspiracy theory believer.
    Pence, an ideological conservative who despises gays.
    And of course, Herr Trump.

    Seriously, it looks like the League of Supervillians to me.
    If a Reagan or either Bush had appointed even one of these guys to his team, there would be a major league outcry.
    But from the Republicans, there has been silence and even from the Democrats, less than united opposition.
    I think here of the Yeats poem “The Second Coming”;

    The best lack all conviction,
    While the worst are full of passionate intensity

    Sadly, it seems like the worst have been put in charge of our government. And all because America freaked out about a black man being President, and a woman taking over from him.

  41. dennis says:

    @LaMont:

    Not all, LaMont; some of those dumbasses voted for him. And have you heard the latest Kanye West idiocy?

  42. Pylon says:

    @Scott: my bad.

  43. dxq says:

    as a feature, not a bug.

    this terrible cliche. ugh.

  44. dxq says:

    I’d like to fast-forward a year or two to when this ugly phrase is passe and no one ever says it anymore.

  45. dxq says:

    remember a few years ago when everyone was arbitrarily jamming “-wait for it-” into sentences and thinking they were Jon Stewart, and then they realized how stupid they sounded and now nobody does it? That’s where we are with “a feature, not a bug.”

  46. Hal_10000 says:

    @Barry:

    Denied that voting rights were ever in danger in Alabama?

    Oh, wait.

  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I agree though, Mike Rogers almost certainly won’t be going anywhere.

    And then again …

  48. de stijl says:

    @dxq:

    remember a few years ago when everyone was arbitrarily jamming “-wait for it-” into sentences and thinking they were Jon Stewart

    Apparently you’re not a HIMYM / Barney Stinson fan. He was legend… ary.

    One man’s cliche is another man’s bro code.

  49. LaMont says:

    @dennis:

    Agreed. And yes I did hear that idiot!

    Perhaps what is most alarming to me is that I have a lot of friends and associates who are white and far from being bigoted that voted for Trump. I know a lot of Asian people that voted for Trump that are reasonable people. Yet, they don’t really follow politics. So much of the information is cloudy by the time they hear it that they really don’t know what to believe from all the political bashing. One guy actually asked me did I really think Donald Trump was racist! My answer, after noting a couple things that appeared to be racist to me, was that if Trump is not racist, he certainly played on the racism to get where he is. He didn’t respond but I couldn’t help but to think that he really did not give my answer much credit at all as he likely perceived that I was biased against Trump from the start – and correctly so!

    What’s really got me shook is the realization that many people, who are not far right, appear to be indifferent to the critique against Trump because the criticism may be perceived to be political theater. It doesn’t matter that the critique is legitimate because, while they know Trump can be an asshole, they really don’t know enough about Trump to think he could really be as bad a person as many (or the main stream media) says he is! It completely goes over their head that I could be offended by their lack of empathy. They don’t understand how I could be offended by their indifference to Trump asking for President Obama’s birth certificate, or Trump stating that he would support “stop and frisk”, or that he would suggest that we live in a utopia of crime ridden areas and so “what have we got to lose”! And in many cases, they don’t even understand the nuances of why what he said is a major problem for people of color to begin with – One person could not understand why I was against Trump stating that he would support stop and frisk. He was completely ignorant of what stop and frisk was all about! I mean got-d@m-it! This really sucks! Indifference and ignorance ruled the day on election night. And now that Trump appears to be confirming the narrative by choosing the likes of Bannon, Flynn, and Sessions to be on his team – it is looking like indifference and ignorance has played a terrible part in walking this country back decades!