Senator Jeff Sessions

Photo via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Sessions, an early backer of Trump, was picked to head the U.S. Justice Department.

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be the next attorney general of the United States.

Sessions, a staunch conservative who was quick to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign last year, has been a member of the U.S. Senate since 1997. He formerly served as attorney general of Alabama, where he’d previously worked as a U.S. attorney in the Southern District.

“The president-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s attorney general and U.S. attorney,” Trump’s transition team said in a statement on Thursday. “It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”

With a history of racial comments, and a hardline aversion to immigration reform, Sessions’s nomination is likely to draw opposition from Democrats, who will recall the federal judgeship he was denied in 1986 after several U.S. attorneys testified about his hostility toward civil rights. 

In 1986, an African-American federal prosecutor, Thomas Figures, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions had called him “boy,” and also said Sessions had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan, “until I found out they smoked pot,” the New York Times reports. Sessions claimed in response that he was merely joking.

If confirmed, Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, 69, is likely to bring sweeping change to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has placed emphasis on the protection of civil rights throughout the Obama administration.

During his two decades in the Senate, Sessions has opposed same-sex marriage and adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes, and voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. He opposes closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where the U.S. government currently holds 60 prisoners, a third of whom have been approved for release.

Last summer, Sessions voted against an amendment reaffirming the U.S. government’s prohibition on torture, saying, “I believe the CIA and the FBI should be able to use all lawful procedures to interrogate individuals who are committed to the destruction of America.”

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