President-elect Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative U.S. senator from Alabama who became a close adviser after endorsing him early in his campaign, to be the attorney general of the United States, reports the New York Times. Trump has also selected Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA and former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. The Associated Press says all three have been fierce critics of President Obama’s handling of terrorism and national security, and their nominations likely signal a sharp shift in U.S. policy. 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 Sessions is well liked in the Senate, his record as U.S. 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 federal prosecutor in Alabama, 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. Former colleagues said that Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P. and other civil rights groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” An African-American federal prosecutor, Thomas H. Figures, said Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and testified that Sessions said the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions was also accused of speaking disparagingly of the Voting Rights Act and the stringent oversight it placed on Southern states. Elected attorney general of Alabama in 1995, he has long considered it a personal triumph that he was able to be elected to the Senate in 1997 and become a member of the panel that rejected his nomination to become a federal judge.