Today, President-elect Donald Trump announced his plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as attorney general. Sessions was one of the very first members of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential bid and has since become one of his closest advisors on political decisions and policy. During the campaign, for example, Sessions chaired Trump’s national security advisory committee, and he advised on who to choose for vice-president. A statement released by the Trump organization expressed approval, 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 added, “It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”
Here are 12 things to know about Sen. Sessions:
1) Sessions has served as senator from Alabama since 1997. His comrade in the Senate is Senator Richard Shelby (R) who has served for three decades. Sessions has never won by less than 59 percent of the vote. In 2014, he was unopposed.
2) His full name is Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions -- a tribute to two Confederate generals of the Civil War that has been cited by critics as evidence of alleged racist leanings.
3) Sessions is married to the former Mary Blackshear, with whom he has three children. He is a member of the United Methodist Church.
4) In 2014, the conservative National Review magazine dubbed him “amnesty’s worst enemy” for his opposition to almost every immigration bill that has come before the Senate over the last twenty years that has included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Sessions once got a bill passed banning for 10 years federal contractors who hire illegal immigrants.
5) He once argued in a 2015 Washington Post op-ed. "... What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together."
6) Sessions is tough on the national debt, and a hawk in foreign policy. He is known for displaying charts showing America’s “crippling debts” when he tours the state. With regard to foreign policy, he voted against legislation that would have banned "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners.
7) Sessions is skeptical about claims of man-made global climate change. Responding to EPA chief Gina McCarthy in a 2015 hearing, he said, "Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases."
8) Accusations of racism against Sessions have been revived since the announcement of his nomination as AG. He was accused of making jokes about the Ku Klux Klan, which resulted in derailing his nomination to a federal judgeship. In 1986, Sessions testified "I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create." He told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks."
9) Sessions, despite his conservatism, has been known for being able to reach out to Democrats. He worked with Democrats on legislation to reduce disparities between sentence time for crack and powder cocaine. In 2010, Sessions worked with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to put strict limits on non-military federal spending.
10) His populist streak and anti-Wall Street rhetoric made him a Tea Party star. Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) could boast of his ties to the Alabaman. Ultimately, Sessions endorsed Trump. Two days before Super Tuesday in February, Sessions jumped up on the stage with Trump at a rally in Alabama to pull on a “Make America Great Again” cap to announce his endorsement of Trump. "I told Donald Trump this isn't a campaign, this is a movement," Sessions said.
11) Mark Hemingway of recorded that Sessions once told him that upon his arrival in Washington as a senator, there was a smear campaign against him that was “was executed with great care.” Hemingway wrote that that is why Sessions has been more deferential regarding presidential nominations than his Republican colleagues. For example, he was one of very few GOP senators to vote in favor of Eric Holder's nomination for attorney general.
12) As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama, Sessions filed several cases in an effort to desegregate schools in Alabama. He also prosecuted Henry Francis Hays, a leader of the Ku Klux Klan for the abduction and murder of Michael Donald -- a black teenager who had been chosen at random. Sessions demanded the death penalty for Hays; when Sessions became state attorney general, he saw to Hays’s execution. The prosecution led to the levying of a $7 million civil judgment against the KKK, thus wounding it dramatically.
Bonus: As U.S. Attorney, he prosecuted a group of civil rights activists for engaging in voter fraud in Perry County, Alabama. Sessions later admitted that he had failed to make an adequate case. Perry County has long seen accusations of voter fraud but Sessions’ has been cited as evidence of supposed racism.