Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions has been tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States. Sessions was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and subsequently reelected in 2002, 2008 and 2014.
Background of Jeff Sessions
Before his election to the Senate, Sessions served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for 12 years, appointed by Ronald Reagan and serving through the Administration of George H.W. Bush.
Leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office after the election of Bill Clinton to the White House, Sessions ran for and won a bid for Attorney General of Alabama.
Sessions and Donald Trump
Sessions was something of an odd-man-out during the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary season. He was the first – and for a long time only – GOP U.S. Senator to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign. Sessions never wavered in his support of Trump, and many political pundits speculated that he might be Trump’s vice-presidential running mate after it became clear Trump was going to be the nominee of the Republican Party.
Sessions and Criminal Law Issues
If a moniker can be applied to Sessions at this early date, it’s that the President’s selection for Attorney General will be a “law and order” AG. As a Senator, he favors strict enforcement of laws relating to illegal immigration into the United States. Sessions has also been a strong proponent of civil forfeiture laws.
Sessions has been at the forefront of the U.S. Senate in opposing the immigration reform efforts put forth by the Obama Administration. If Trump stays true to his campaign promises regarding illegal immigration in the United States, Sessions can be expected to be an enthusiastic supporter of the President’s initiatives in this regard.
He can also be expected to take a hardline approach to criminal prosecutions by the federal government. This is particularly expected to be the case regarding defendants charged with crimes of violence or child pornography.
Sessions has been staunchly opposed to state laws that permit the medical or recreational use of marijuana. He has stated that he is a “fan for the DEA,” the primary federal agency beyond the FBI involved in the enforcement of drug-related laws in the United States.
Sessions’ position on marijuana laws could prove problematic for those states that have enacted laws permitting the medical or recreational use of the substance. To this point, federal law has remained unchanged about the medical or recreational use of marijuana—it’s still considered illegal.
Under the Obama Administration, federal drug enforcement authorities have turned what best can be described as a blind eye to what is going on in states that legally permit the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
Sessions has generally been opposed to mandatory-minimum sentencing. He’s been supportive of at least some efforts to deal with sentence disparity in the federal criminal justice system. For example, he supported easing the sentencing disparity in cases involving rock versus powder cocaine.
Sessions is a strong opponent of issues surrounding LGBT rights. As a U.S. Senator, Sessions received a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the U.S. He has gone on the record saying that the LGBT rights movement “cheapens the civil rights movement.”
The Nomination of Sessions for Attorney General
Trump formally submitted his nomination of Sessions for AG immediately after he was sworn in as President in January 2017. Senate watchers anticipate that the confirmation process for Sessions will be contentious, with at least some Democrats taking firm positions against Sessions becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
There also may be an element of retribution among some Democratic Senators. During the Obama Administration, Sessions was an outspoken opponent of both of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also opposed taking up President Obama’s nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, taking the position that it should be delayed until a new President was sworn in after the 2016 election.