Sen. Jeff Sessions, Once Deemed Too Racist to Become a Federal Judge, Will Be Trump's Attorney General

Sessions at Trump Tower. Photo via AP
Sessions at Trump Tower. Photo via AP

Several news outlets are reporting that Donald Trump has selected Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in the ‘80s after testimony during his confirmation hearings revealed that he’d allegedly made racist remarks to black colleagues. These days, he tweets almost obsessively about terrorists hiding amongst refugees.


The New York Times reports that Sessions was chosen as AG after also being under consideration for the Secretary of Defense. He’s been in the Senate since 1997, and served as the Attorney General of Alabama before that, and a U.S. Attorney in the state from 1981 to 1993.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan nominated him to become a U.S. District Court judge. That didn’t happen. As CNN noted yesterday, during his confirmation hearings the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony about the outrageous shit a black colleague heard him say:

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony during hearings in March and May 1986, that Sessions had made racist remarks and called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American.”

Thomas Figures, a black assistant US attorney who worked for Sessions, testified that Sessions called him “boy” on multiple occasions and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying that he thought Klan members were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

On why he never spoke up against Sessions’ alleged use of the term, Figures testified: “I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I thought I would be fired.”


Figures also testified that Sessions was critical of the NAACP and other groups.

“On the day in question, Mr. Sessions came into my office just as I was reading a newspaper account of some the recent action of the NAACP. I casually mentioned that development to Mr. Sessions. Mr. Sessions in response stated that he believed the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation PUSH and the National Conference of Churches were all un-American organizations teaching anti-American values. This statement clearly was not intended as a joke,” Figures said.

Sessions angrily denied the allegations of racism, but was nonetheless not confirmed.

These days, as a Senator, Sessions has a very strong—some might say obsessive—interest in undocumented people. He sent out an outraged press release not long before the election, claiming that President Obama had, in an interview, failed to object when an interviewer said undocumented people can and should vote. As Snopes explains, Obama was actually talking about the necessity of Latinos voting in order to give voice to people in their communities who are undocumented. Sessions all but accused President Obama of encouraging people to vote illegally: “The interviewer proposed a radical and illegal action, which the President had a duty to condemn.”

Sessions has also called for refugees from Syria not to be admitted to the United States, claiming there’s no vetting process and fretting a great deal about “refugee terrorists:”


The vetting process for Syrian refugees is the most intensive of any group of immigrants who arrive in the United States. Sessions has openly accused the Obama Administration of endangering Americans by admitting refugees.

Sessions is, naturally, anti-abortion and opposed to marriage equality because of his deeply-held family values. He’s also been a big-time Trump defender for the entire campaign season, calling him “correct on the issues, substantively.” Just weeks ago, he defended Trump’s pussy-grabbing remarks as not descriptive of sexual assault, but just “very improper language.” And here is his reward.


Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas has reportedly been chosen as Trump’s CIA chief. Pompeo endorsed Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries; his biggest public stance is opposing the Iran deal. The Times describes him as “hawkish,” noting that he served on the House Committee “investigating” Benghazi, where he repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton. The Koch brothers are also big fans and generous donors of his.

A true dream team, if your dreams are the kind where you wake up weeping and thrashing the sheets right off the bed.


The Noble Renard

This is a nightmare for those who are worried about immigration. Jeff Sessions is extremely dangerous because he actually knows quite a lot about how the immigration system works, in minute details. He’s not a dumb man either. He knows exactly where to stick the knife.

The Attorney General also has enormous power in the immigration world. As head of the DOJ, he is also head of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, otherwise known as the immigration court system. Unlike something like Tax Court or Bankruptcy Court, immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals are not independent federal judges. They are technically senior attorneys in the Department of Justice, and while civil service protections prevent an outright immediate purge of all liberal members, they are not protected from a wide variety of legal attacks.

One particularly dangerous thing that Sessions can do is overturn every “liberal” piece of case law in the Board of Immigration Appeals, because the Attorney General has the authority to override it. The only recourse at that point is the federal courts. What this means in the long term is that he will likely make practicing in immigration court much harder and much more difficult for practitioners. He could also make asylum laws a lot more restrictive as well. For example, right now, women can get asylum if they are unable to leave domestic abusers in their home country because the legal systems in their home countries do not protect abused women. He could theoretically remove asylum protections for those women because it was largely a creation of Board of Immigration Appeals caselaw!