President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Jeff Sessions, an Alabama senator with a questionably racist past, to be attorney general under his administration.
Sessions met with Trump on Wednesday, and shortly after the meeting, the Trump transition team issued a statement saying, “The President-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s Attorney General and U.S. Attorney. It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”
With the announcement that he is Trump’s choice for attorney general came concerns about allegations of racist statements in his past, and many have been left to wonder, who is Jeff Sessions?
- According to a report by CBS News, Sessions has been one of Trump’s closest allies and was the first senator to announce his support for a Trump presidency. Sessions was previously considered for the position of secretary of defense and is an architect of Trump’s immigration, counterterrorism and trade policies.
- Sessions is a Republican U.S. senator for the state of Alabama, and he has served in that position since 1997. In that time, he has served on the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Armed Forces Committee, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
- Sessions was born in Selma, Ala., in 1946 and grew up in Hybart, Ala. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Huntingdon College and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama.
- He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1973 to 1986, attaining the rank of captain.
- He practiced law for a short time before spending two years as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
- In 1981 he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the U.S. attorney for Alabama’s Southern District. He remained in that position for 12 years.
- In 1986 Reagan nominated him to be a judge for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Alabama. He was not confirmed by the Senate because there were concerns about past comments he had allegedly made about desegregation and civil rights groups. Then-Sen. Joe Biden urged Reagan to withdraw Sessions from consideration after Thomas Figures, an African-American former deputy of Sessions, testified that Sessions had once warned him to be careful about what he said “to white folks,” and confirmed allegations that Sessions had called the NAACP “un-American.”
- That same deputy said that Sessions had called him “boy” on more than one occasion and had said that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
- In 1995 Sessions was elected as Alabama’s attorney general, and he left that post in 1997 to join the Senate.
- According to the Washington Post, Sessions advised Trump on whom to choose for vice president and was also in the running himself for the position.
- The Post says that Sessions is “amnesty’s worst enemy” because he has fought legal immigration and has opposed nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate in the past two decades.
In the Senate, Sessions has fought hard on issues pertaining to the budget as well as the military. He authored legislation that increased the amount of money that the families of fallen soldiers receive, and he is described as a "budget hawk" by his peers.
Many in the general public are concerned about the openly racist comments attributed to him, including one statement that another attorney was "a discredit to his race" for fighting for voting rights. Calling a grown man "boy" and telling him that he should watch how he speaks "to white folks" is telling of a person who is undeniably influenced by the Jim Crow South he grew up in.
Meanwhile, Sessions has claimed that he is not a racist.
“I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create,” he said during the 1986 committee hearings. “I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activities in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality and fairness for all.”
Hopefully the Senate Judiciary Committee will do its job and not make the American people more familiar with his racism through his actions as attorney general.
Monique Judge is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter.