The Slatest

Jeff Sessions, Defender of the Muslim Ban, Is Trump’s Pick for Attorney General

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talks with reporters.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Reports are coming in that Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions will be Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. From Bloomberg:

It wasn’t immediately clear if Trump has formally offered the job to Sessions, a lawyer who was an early and ardent Trump backer, but the people familiar said Trump wants Sessions in the role.

A Trump aide on Thursday night called Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a one-time Trump rival who was under serious consideration for the role, to tell him the job was instead going to Sessions, one of the people familiar said. The people asked not to be named because the decision has not yet been made public.

Sessions, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, is best known as an immigration hard-liner—one whose credibility and consistency on the issue are so respected on the right that Ted Cruz referenced his support for Cruz’s controversial amendment to 2013’s Gang of Eight immigration reform bill as many times as he could during the primaries, for conservative anti-amnesty cred. Sessions ultimately became the first sitting senator to endorse Trump two days before Super Tuesday.

Sessions has also been a cautious but consistent defender of Trump’s Muslim ban proposal and an opponent of recent criminal justice reform moves, including President Obama’s commutations of federal inmate sentences this fall. Following the Shelby County v. Holder case, which struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Sessions opposed updating the act to have the federal government make sure that states and localities with histories of discriminatory voting policies are no longer discriminating.

In mostly forgotten confirmation hearings for a federal judgeship he was nominated for in 1986, Sessions, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, told the Senate that he had previously considered the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation.” As the Guardian’s Sarah Wildman wrote in 2009, other testimony about Sessions from witnesses, including a Justice Department employee who said Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for taking on voting rights suits, resulted in Sessions becoming only the second rejected federal bench nominee in half a century.

Sessions can expect those hearings, and the rest of his deeply conservative legislative record, to come up for scrutiny even if he’s easily confirmed by the Republican Senate.