8 Terrifying Facts About Jeff Sessions, Our New Attorney General

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty


This story has been updated throughout.

Over the vocal protestations of all Senate Democrats, but one, Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed to serve as attorney general of the United States late last night. At 69, Sessions has represented Alabama in the Senate for two decades. During his tenure in state and federal politics, he's earned a distinct reputation for his hard-line stance on immigration and checkered record on civil rights.

Meanwhile, "[t]he president-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama's attorney general and U.S. attorney," said a statement from the Trump transition team last month. "It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition."

Here's what you need to know about Jeff Sessions:

1. He was the first sitting U.S. senator to support Trump.

While Sen. Ted Cruz liked to brag about his closeness to Sessions, Sessions endorsed Trump in February, making him the first sitting senator to offer him his support. In February, Sessions joined Trump at a rally in Madison, Alabama, and sported a "Make America Great Again" hat for good measure.

"I told Donald Trump this isn't a campaign, this is a movement," Sessions said at the time.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

2. If history had had its way, Sessions might never have been confirmed.

The last time Sessions faced Senate confirmation, he had been nominated for federal judgeship. It was 1986. During the hearing, a former assistant U.S. attorney, Thomas Figures, who was black, testified that Sessions called him "boy" and told him to be careful about what he said to "white folks." Sessions denied the claims, but Sen. Edward Kennedy presented a letter to the Senate from an organization of black lawyers that confirmed that Figures had made the allegation about Sessions to the organization's investigators at least twice.

"Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past," Kennedy said during the confirmation hearing. "It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge."

Ultimately, the Senate decided not to confirm Sessions, which is extremely uncommon. But he went on to become state attorney general in Alabama, and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

3. He now knows not to make jokes about the Ku Klux Klan.

At that same hearing, Sessions was criticized for referring to the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP as "un-American" for "trying to force civil rights down the throats of people" and for saying in the presence of a Justice Department lawyer that he believed the Ku Klux Klan was "okay" until he found out they smoked marijuana. He made the joke in the midst of an investigation into the 1981 murder of Michael Donald, a black man whom two Klansmen had kidnapped, beaten, and lynched in Mobile, Alabama.

It "was a silly comment, I guess you might say, that I made," he said at the time.

4. He's prosecuted black civil rights workers.

Given that the job of the attorney general is to uphold civil rights nationwide, this bit of personal history is particularly curious: Back when he was an attorney, Sessions prosecuted activists Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner, and Spencer Hogue for working to expand African American access to political power after the Voting Rights Act was passed.

According to NPR, Sessions accused the Turners and Hogue of crimes "like forging signatures on absentee ballots-and in less than three hours of deliberating, the jury delivered zero convictions."

5. He opposes immigration of all kinds.

Sessions is so anti-immigration that he not only opposes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, but he has even voted against legal immigration measures, like guest worker programs and visas for skilled workers in science, math, and high tech, according to The Washington Post.

Sessions takes credit for some of Trump's "best" ideas on immigration, and deservedly so, says Politico Magazine: "Trump is running on ideas that Sessions has been pushing for years."

6. He's not so sure about climate change.

During a Senate hearing on the 2016 budget, Sessions questioned climate change statistics and "sparred" with a representative of the Environmental Protect Agency over how much funding the EPA needed: "Carbon pollution is CO2, and that's really not a pollutant," he said. "That's a plant food, and it doesn't harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases."

7. He is pro-life and opposes same-sex marriage.

Surprise, surprise: According to Sessions' website, he "believes that the sanctity of life begins at conception" and that "a marriage is union between a man and a woman." Sessions has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue issued a statement this morning to respond to the nomination, writing: "The last person women and families need in this job is someone who has repeatedly given a pass to individuals who commit acts of violence against abortion clinics, doesn't take sexual assault seriously, and was determined to be too racist by a GOP-led Senate to become a federal judge. But that's who Jeff Sessions is. His record of misogyny and racism makes him unfit to be the country's top lawyer. The American people deserve far better, but with Donald Trump at the helm, we know we won't get it."

8. The NRA is a big fan.

The National Rifle Association has handed him an "A" for his stalwart opposition to universal background checks, among other credentials. The organization endorsed him in 2014.

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