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6 Things to Know About...Jeff Sessions

By Joan Greve

Washington Week Fellow

After 20 years in Congress, Sen. Jeff Sessions is moving on — or at least he hopes to in January. President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate the Alabama Republican to be his attorney general, but Democrats have already begun to raise alarms about Sessions’ confirmation process. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have called on Trump to “reconsider” the nomination, but Sessions would not need their approval to join the Trump’s cabinet. Before he faces his Senate colleagues, find out what might come up during those confirmation hearings.

Jeff Sessions

1.    Sessions has served as a U.S. senator from the state of Alabama since 1997 and has won re-election three times. His most recent victory came in 2014, when he won 97 percent of the ballots cast, largely thanks to Alabama’s solidly red state profile. If Sessions were confirmed as attorney general, Senate Republicans should not have trouble retaining his seat.

2.    President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship in 1986, but the Republican-leaning Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination 10 to 8. The committee cited concerns over reports of racist remarks from Sessions, mainly stemming from his former colleague Thomas Figures. Figures, a black attorney, claimed that Sessions had repeatedly referred to him as “boy” and had joked about the Ku Klux Klan.

3.    The Alabama senator is a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and has also criticized the rates of legal immigration. During the presidential campaign, Sessions called for a commander-in-chief who would enforce deportation laws, and, as AG, Sessions would likely go after “sanctuary cities” where police officers are instructed not to inquire about suspects’ immigration status. He has also consistently voted against legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, including the 2013 “Gang of Eight” bill for immigration reform. That bill also called for higher levels of legal immigration, which Sessions has argued could harm the wages of America’s low-skilled workers.

4.    Sessions has indicated skepticism on the existence of man-made climate change. When Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy testified to Congress in 2015, Sessions took the opportunity to grill her on certain weather patterns that would seem to contradict climate change. McCarthy responded that she was not familiar with the specific models that Sessions had cited and thus could not provide an answer on the spot, to which Sessions replied, “This is a stunning development: that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who should know more than anybody else in the world, who’s imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in costs to prevent this climate — temperature increase, doesn’t know whether their projections have been right or wrong.”

5.    He was the first senator to endorse Trump’s run for the presidency, during the Republican primary in February. Sessions took the stage with Trump in Madison, Ala., and donned a “Make America Great Again” hat to indicate his support. Though some had expected Sessions to endorse Ted Cruz, who had cited him as an inspiration on immigration, the Alabama senator told the assembled crowd that he had been motivated by the “movement” that Trump was leading. 

6.    Sessions was a Sunday school teacher at his local church, Ashland Place United Methodist Church, where he also served as a “lay leader.”

See how Trump's administration is taking shape: 

Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Chief strategist: Stephen Bannon
Chief of staff: Reince Priebus
National Security adviser: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
CIA director: Mike Pompeo
Agriculture secretary:
Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross
Defense secretary: Gen. James Mattis
Education secretary: Betsy DeVos
Energy secretary:
Health and Human Services secretary: Tom Price
Homeland Security secretary: Gen. John Kelly
Housing and Urban Development secretary: Ben Carson
Secretary of state:
Interior secretary:
Treasury secretary: Steven Mnuchin
Transportation secretary: Elaine Chao
Veteran Affairs secretary:
EPA administrator: Scott Pruitt