President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Republican Senator Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III as Attorney General of the United States. Read on for a profile of America’s next top lawyer and law enforcement officer.
WHO IS JEFF SESSIONS?
Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions is a Republican Senator from Alabama who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, among other committees. Sessions was Donald Trump’s first supporter in the Senate, and remained a vocal endorser throughout the campaign. Sessions is an experienced lawyer, having worked in private practice and served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney, and Attorney General of Alabama. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve when he was younger, attaining the rank of Captain.
Controversy: In 1986, Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by Ronald Reagan. He was denied confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, largely because of several accusations of racist behavior from fellow Justice Department lawyers. For example, Sessions was alleged to have called a black Assistant U.S. Attorney “boy,” and advised him to “be careful what [he said] to white folks.” Sessions also allegedly remarked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until [he] found out they smoked pot,” and that the NAACP and ACLU were “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” Sessions was also reported to have called a white civil rights lawyer “a disgrace to his race.” Sessions denied making the statements or dismissed them as jokes, but was denied the judgeship after testimony from his accusers. These allegations are likely to come up during confirmation hearings for Attorney General, although many years have passed and Sessions’s Republican colleagues are likely to confirm him.
Political Views: For the last 20 years, Sessions has served as a Republican Senator for the state of Alabama. His positions are decidedly conservative – he opposes immigration, opposes abortion, opposes the legality of same-sex marriage and tends not to support LGBTQ rights in general, opposes legalization of cannabis, opposes embryonic stem-cell research, is skeptical of climate change, and opposes gun restrictions including universal background checks. Sessions has earned an A+ rating from the NRA and a Zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
Economically, Sessions favors reduced government spending and has been repeatedly awarded as a “Guardian of Small Business” by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He is an advocate of the Bush tax Cuts and voted against the 2008 bank bailout and the Affordable Care Act. Sessions has sponsored legislation in the past to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal, and to authorize funding to help child abuse victims. His largest campaign donors have come from the legal, health, real estate, and insurance industries.
NOMINATED FOR: Attorney General of the United States.
The U.S. Attorney General is the nation’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer, and heads the Department of Justice. The mission of the Office of the Attorney General is to supervise and direct the administration and operation of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Prisons, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals Service, which are all within the Department of Justice.
The principal duties of the Attorney General are to:
- Represent the United States in legal matters.
- Supervise and direct the administration and operation of the offices, boards, divisions, and bureaus that comprise the Department.
- Furnish advice and opinions, formal and informal, on legal matters to the President and the Cabinet and to the heads of the executive departments and agencies of the government, as provided by law.
- Make recommendations to the President concerning appointments to federal judicial positions and to positions within the Department, including U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals.
- Represent or supervise the representation of the United States Government in the Supreme Court of the United States and all other courts, foreign and domestic, in which the United States is a party or has an interest as may be deemed appropriate.
- Perform or supervise the performance of other duties required by statute or Executive Order.
SUMMARY: Attorney General is a very powerful position, overseeing all legal cases that involve the U.S. government, giving legal advice to the President and other top cabinet members, and determining priorities for the Justice Department such as which cases to prosecute (or not) and which laws to defend (or not). Jeff Sessions is likely to be confirmed for this position. It remains to be seen how a Justice Department under his control will choose to handle cases involving civil rights, LGBTQ issues, abortion rights, gun control, climate change-related legislation, and the recent legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in several states.
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