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Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions, official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
84th United States Attorney General
In office
February 9, 2017 – November 7, 2018
President Donald Trump
Deputy
Preceded by Loretta Lynch
Succeeded by William Barr
United States Senator
from Alabama
In office
January 3, 1997 – February 8, 2017
Preceded by Howell Heflin
Succeeded by Luther Strange
44th Attorney General of Alabama
In office
January 16, 1995 – January 3, 1997
Governor Fob James
Preceded by Jimmy Evans
Succeeded by William H. Pryor Jr.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama
In office
February 1981 – March 23, 1993
President
Preceded by William Kimbrough
Succeeded by Don Foster
Personal details
Born
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

(1946-12-24) December 24, 1946 (age 77)
Selma, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse
Mary Blackshear
(m. 1969)
Children 3
Education
Signature
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service
Years of service 1973–1977
Rank Captain
Unit 1184th United States Army Transportation Terminal Unit

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (born December 24, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 84th United States Attorney General from 2017 to 2018. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017 before resigning that position to serve as attorney general in the administration of President Donald Trump.

From 1981 to 1993, Sessions served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. After allegations of racism were made against him in testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which Sessions denied, the committee voted against advancing his nomination to the Senate floor; the nomination was later withdrawn. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994. In 1996, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and was re-elected in 2002, 2008 and 2014. During his Senate tenure, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative Senators. His Senate voting record includes votes against comprehensive immigration reform (2006), the 2008 bank bailout, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Affordable Care Act (2009) and criminal justice reform (2015).

Sessions was an early supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign; he was nominated by Trump for the post of U.S. attorney general. He was confirmed and sworn in as attorney general in February 2017. In his confirmation hearings, Sessions stated under oath that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign and that he was unaware of any contact between Trump campaign members and Russian officials. However, in March 2017, news reports revealed that Sessions had twice met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016. Sessions later recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. As Attorney General, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the maximum criminal charges possible. A staunch opponent of illegal immigration, Sessions adopted a hard line on sanctuary cities and told reporters that cities failing to comply with federal immigration policy would lose federal funding. He also played a key role in the implementation of the Trump administration family separation policy. Trump issued an executive order revoking the cities' funding, but that order was overturned by a federal court.

On November 7, 2018, Sessions tendered his resignation at Trump's request following months of public and private conflict with President Trump over his recusal from investigations relating to Russian election interference. Sessions ran in the 2020 Senate election in Alabama to reclaim his old seat, but lost in the Republican primary to Tommy Tuberville, who was supported by President Trump.

Early life and early career

Sessions was born in Selma, Alabama, on December 24, 1946, the son of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jr., and the former Abbie Powe. Sessions, his father, and his grandfather were named after Jefferson Davis, a U.S. senator and president of the Confederate States of America, and P. G. T. Beauregard, a veteran of the Mexican-American War and a Confederate general who oversaw the Battle of Fort Sumter that commenced the American Civil War. His father owned a general store in Hybart, Alabama, and later owned a farm equipment dealership. Both Sessions's parents were primarily of English descent, with some Scots-Irish ancestry. In 1964, Sessions became an Eagle Scout, and later, he earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for his many years of service.

After attending Wilcox County High School in nearby Camden, Sessions studied at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1969. He was active in the Young Republicans and was student body president. Sessions attended the University of Alabama School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1973.

Sessions entered the private practice of law in Russellville and later in Mobile. He also served in the Army Reserve in the 1970s with the rank of captain.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (1981–1993)

Sessions was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama beginning in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan nominated him to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Senate confirmed him and he held that position for twelve years. In 1993, Sessions resigned his post after Democrat Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States.

In 1985, Sessions prosecuted three African American community organizers in the Black Belt of Alabama, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s former aide Albert Turner, for voter fraud, alleging tampering with 14 absentee ballots. The prosecution stirred charges of selective prosecution of black voter registration. The defendants, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted of all charges by a jury after three hours of deliberation. Historian Wayne Flynt told The Washington Post he regarded concerns about tactics employed in the 1984 election and by Turner in particular as legitimate, but also noted Sessions had no history of advocating for black voter rights before 1984. Interviewed in 2009, Sessions said he remained convinced that he did the right thing, but admitted he "failed to make the case".

Failed nomination for federal trial court judgeship (1986)

In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions's judicial nomination was recommended and actively backed by Republican Alabama senator Jeremiah Denton. A substantial majority of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates nominees to the federal bench, rated Sessions "qualified", with a minority voting that Sessions was "not qualified". His nomination was opposed by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and People for the American Way.

At Sessions's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he made racially offensive remarks. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" (Sessions said he was referring to their support of the Sandinistas) and that they did more harm than good by trying to force civil rights "down the throats of people". Hebert, a civil rights lawyer, said that he did not consider Sessions a racist, and that Sessions "has a tendency sometimes to just say something, and I believe these comments were along that vein." Hebert also said that Sessions had called a white civil rights attorney "maybe" a "disgrace to his race". Sessions said he did not recall making that remark and he did not believe it.

On June 5, 1986, the committee voted 10–8 against recommending the nomination to the Senate floor, with Republican senators Charles Mathias of Maryland and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting with the Democrats. It then split 9–9 on a vote to send Sessions's nomination to the Senate floor with no recommendation, this time with Specter in support. A majority was required for the nomination to proceed. The pivotal votes against Sessions came from his home state's Democratic senator Howell Heflin of Alabama. Although Heflin had previously backed Sessions, he began to oppose Sessions after hearing testimony, concluding that there were "reasonable doubts" over Sessions's ability to be "fair and impartial". The nomination was withdrawn on July 31, 1986.

Sessions became only the second nominee to the federal judiciary in 48 years whose nomination was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was quoted then as saying that the Senate on occasion had been insensitive to the rights and reputation of nominees. A law clerk from the U.S. District Court in Mobile who had worked with Sessions later acknowledged the confirmation controversy, but stated that he observed Sessions as "a lawyer of the highest ethical and intellectual standards".

When Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania left the GOP to join the Democratic Party on April 28, 2009, Sessions was selected to be the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. At that time, Specter said that his vote against Sessions's 1986 federal judicial nomination had been a mistake, adding that he had later found Sen. Sessions to be an "egalitarian".

Alabama attorney general (1995–1997)

FEMA - 9349 - Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino taken on 03-09-1998 in Alabama
Senators Sessions and Richard Shelby with FEMA Director James Lee Witt, 1998
Sessions and Shelby meet Bush
Senators Sessions and Richard Shelby meet with President George W. Bush, 2004

Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in November 1994, unseating incumbent Democrat Jimmy Evans with 57% of the vote. The harsh criticism he had received from Senator Ted Kennedy, who called him a "throw-back to a shameful era" and a "disgrace", was considered to have won him the support of Alabama conservatives.

As Attorney General, Sessions defended the state in a litigation that challenged the funding system for Alabama's public schools. The litigation resulted in the creation of a new funding system after "Judge Eugene W. Reese found the state's education funding unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to come up with a system to remedy inequities between rich and poor schools."

As Attorney General in 1995, Sessions defended a newly passed state law denying access to meeting space and student group funding for Gay-Straight Alliances at the state's public universities. The U.S. District court ruled against the state law as a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance v. Sessions, 917 F. Supp. 1548 (1996)

U.S. Senate (1997–2017)

Jeff Sessions official portrait
Official photo of Sessions as Senator, 2004

In 1996, Sessions won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, after a runoff, and then defeated Democrat Roger Bedford 53%–46% in the November general election. He succeeded Howell Heflin (a Democrat), who had retired after 18 years in the Senate, making his victory a Republican pickup in the Senate.

Following the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999, Sessions took part in the Senate's Subcommittee that investigated the massacre. Sessions blamed violent video games, movies and music, especially that of Marilyn Manson, and parts of culture for the actions of the two shooters.

US Navy 040416-N-5821W-001 Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions talk to Sailors
Senators Sessions and Saxby Chambliss talk to sailors, NAS Sigonella, Italy, 2004

In 2002, Sessions won reelection by defeating Democratic state auditor Susan Parker. In 2008, Sessions defeated Democratic state senator Vivian Davis Figures (sister-in-law of Thomas Figures, the assistant U.S. attorney who testified at Sessions's judicial confirmation hearing) to win a third term. Sessions received 63 percent of the vote to Figures's 37 percent. Sessions successfully sought a fourth term in 2014. In 2014, Sessions was uncontested in the Republican primary and was only opposed in the general election by write-in Democratic candidate Victor Sanchez Williams.

Sessions was only the second freshman Republican senator from Alabama since Reconstruction and gave Alabama two Republican senators, a first since Reconstruction. In 2002, he became the first Republican reelected to the Senate from Alabama since Reconstruction (given that his colleague Richard Shelby, who won reelection as a Republican in 1998, had previously run as a Democrat, switching parties in 1994).

Sessions was the ranking Republican member on the Senate Budget Committee, a former ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. He also served on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Campaign donors

According to OpenSecrets, between 1995 and 2016, Sessions's largest donors came from the legal, health, real estate, and insurance industries. From 1995 to 2016, the corporations employing donors who gave the most to his campaign were the Southern Company utility firm, the Balch & Bingham law firm, the Drummond Company coal mining firm, Collazo Enterprises, and Vulcan Materials.

Committee assignments

2016 presidential election

Jeff Sessions by Gage Skidmore 3
Sessions speaking at a campaign event for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on August 31, 2016
Senator Jeff Sessions arrives before the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade, Jan. 20, 2017
Sessions arriving at Trump's inauguration on January 20, 2017

Sessions was an early supporter of the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, and was a major policy adviser to the Trump campaign, especially in regard to immigration and national security. He was on the short list to become Trump's running mate and was widely seen as a potential Cabinet secretary in a Trump administration.

Sessions donned a "Make America Great Again" cap at a Trump rally in August 2015, and Stephen Miller, Sessions's long-time communications director, joined the Trump campaign. On February 28, 2016, Sessions officially endorsed Donald Trump for president. Session's endorsement further legitimized Trump's campaign, as he was the first and only sitting U.S Senator to endorse him during the primary. Sessions's and Rudy Giuliani's appearance was a staple at Trump campaign rallies. Uncorroborated Russian communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies discuss Ambassador Sergey Kislyak meeting privately with Sessions at the Mayflower Hotel during a Trump campaign event in April 2016.

Transition

Jeff Sessions hearing swearing in
Sessions being sworn in at his confirmation hearing on January 10, 2017

During the transition, Sessions played a large role in appointments and policy preparation relative to space, NASA and related facilities in Alabama, while Peter Thiel advocated for private spaceflight.

Attorney General of the United States (2017–2018)

Nomination

President-elect Trump announced on November 18, 2016, that he would nominate Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States. Trump would later state in an August 22, 2018, interview with Fox News' Ainsley Earhardt that the only reason he nominated Sessions was because Sessions was an original supporter during his presidential campaign. The nomination engendered support and opposition from various groups and individuals. He was introduced by Senator Susan Collins from Maine who said, "He's a decent individual with a strong commitment to the rule of law. He's a leader of integrity. I think the attacks against him are not well founded and are unfair." More than 1,400 law school professors wrote a letter urging the Senate to reject the nomination. A group of black pastors rallied in support of Sessions in advance of his confirmation hearing; his nomination was supported by Gerald A. Reynolds, an African American former chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Six NAACP activists, including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, were arrested at a January 2017 sit-in protesting the nomination.

On January 10, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination began and were interrupted by protesters. The committee approved his nomination February 1 on an 11–9 party-line vote. The nomination then went to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. The vote on Sessions was delayed until after the vote on Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, because his confirmation – and subsequent resignation from the Senate – would create a temporary vacancy, which otherwise would have jeopardized DeVos's narrow confirmation. On February 7, 2017, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stopped Senator Elizabeth Warren from reading statements opposing Sessions's nomination as federal judge that had been made by Ted Kennedy and Coretta Scott King. Warren was then officially rebuked per Senate Rule XIX on a party-line vote for "impugning a fellow senator's character". In silencing Warren, McConnell uttered the phrase "Nevertheless, she persisted"; the phrase was later adopted by the feminist movement in referring to women's persistence in breaking barriers. A few hours later Senator Jeff Merkley read without interruption the same letter by King that Warren had attempted to read.

On February 8, 2017, Sessions was confirmed as attorney general by a vote of 52 to 47. The next day, he was sworn in into his new post.

Tenure

Jeff Sessions swearing in 01
Sessions is sworn in as Attorney General by Vice President Mike Pence.

On March 10, 2017, Sessions oversaw the firing of 46 United States attorneys. His acting deputy, Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein remained in place after Trump declined their resignations.

On April 10, 2017, Sessions disbanded the National Commission on Forensic Science and ended the department's review of forensic accuracy in closed cases.

Sessions imposed a hiring freeze on most of the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division and U.S. attorneys' offices, and placed a total hiring freeze on the Department's Fraud Section. On April 24, 2017, Sessions traveled to an ethics lawyers' conference to assure them the department would continue prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, regardless of Trump's comments that the law is a "horrible law" and that "the world is laughing at us".

On May 9, 2017, Sessions delivered a memo to the president recommending that Trump fire FBI director James Comey, attaching a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein which called the Director's behavior indefensible. Trump fired Comey that day. In March 2017, Sessions had recused himself from investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Comey was leading the investigations prior to his dismissal.

On June 5, 2017, Sessions issued a memo preventing the Justice Department's future lawsuit settlements from including funding for third parties. Such settlement funding had been made available for the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

In a November 2017 overview of his tenure in the Washington Post, Sessions was described as having made "dramatic and controversial changes [which] reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views".

On December 21, 2017, Sessions rescinded 200 pages of guidance documents. Some of those 25 guidance documents had included warnings to avoid imposing excessive fees on the poor, to refrain from shipping some guns across state lines, and to encourage accommodation of the developmentally disabled. Sessions's recessions were criticized by the United States Commission on Civil Rights and prompted a lawsuit by the City Attorney of San Francisco. In 2018, Sessions shuttered the Justice Department's Office for Access to Justice, which had focused on legal aid.

On November 7, 2018, Sessions resigned at President Trump's behest. It has been reported that his letter of resignation had also been submitted on a prior occasion.

Recusal from election investigation, and relationship with President Trump

The idea that Sessions might have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation was raised almost as soon as he took office. Trump was concerned about the implications of such a recusal, reportedly telling aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the investigation. In early March he told White House counsel Don McGahn to urge Sessions to retain oversight of the investigation, but Sessions told McGahn he intended to follow the advice of Justice Department lawyers.

On March 2, 2017, Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from any investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, or any other matters related to the 2016 presidential election. He had been advised to do so by career Justice Department personnel, citing concerns about impartiality given his prominent role in the Trump election campaign. Sessions said during a televised interview that the recusal was not an admission of any wrongdoing. On June 8, 2017, James Comey, who had been dismissed as FBI director a month earlier, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation two weeks before he did so, for classified reasons that made Sessions's continued engagement in the investigation "problematic".

A few days after he announced his recusal, Sessions traveled to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump. Sessions wanted to talk about implementing Trump's proposed travel ban, but instead Trump berated him for recusing himself and asked him to reverse his recusal. Sessions refused. In May 2017, Sessions offered to resign after receiving criticism from Trump, but Trump did not accept the resignation.

For the rest of Sessions's tenure, Trump continued to be furious with him for his recusal, blaming it for the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump publicly attacked Sessions multiple times via Twitter and in public comments, saying he regretted choosing him as attorney general and that he never would have done so if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from the investigation. According to Bob Woodward's book Fear: Trump in the White House, Trump called Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded" and described him as a "dumb southerner". Trump denied ever using "these terms on anyone", although he had been recorded using the word "retarded" as an insult on two episodes of The Howard Stern Show.

In addition to criticizing him, Trump often used Twitter to suggest things he thought Sessions should do or to criticize Justice Department actions. According to Senator Jeff Flake, "the president has been pushing [Sessions] very openly to go after the president's enemies and lay off his friends," adding "And so far, Jeff Sessions, bless his heart, has resisted and maintained that the judiciary needs to be independent." Trump demanded that Sessions investigate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and various employees of the FBI and Justice Department. In August 2018 he said that Sessions should "stop" the Mueller investigation. He later tweeted that "Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action." In an August interview Trump complained that Jeff Sessions "never took control of the Justice Department", to which Sessions in a rare response said "While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. ... I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in."

On September 3, 2018, Trump complained on Twitter that "investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time." Many lawmakers, including Republican senators, said Trump's remark was inappropriate, and a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Justice Department "should always remain apolitical".

Trump often hinted he wanted to fire Sessions, perhaps after the November 2018 elections. Sessions told associates he did not intend to resign, but on November 7, 2018, he submitted a letter of resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly at President Trump's request.

Immigration

On March 27, 2017, Sessions told reporters that sanctuary cities failing to comply with policies of the Trump administration would lose federal funding.

On April 11, 2017, Sessions issued a memo for federal attorneys to consider prosecuting anyone harboring an illegal immigrant. On the same day, while at an entry border port in Nogales, Arizona, Sessions insisted the new administration would implement policies against those continuing "to seek improper and illegal entry into this country". On April 21, nine sanctuary cities were sent letters by the Justice Department giving them a deadline of June 30 to provide an explanation of how their policies were not in violation of the law, and Sessions hours later warned "enough is enough" in San Diego amid his tour of the U.S.–Mexico border. Two days later, Sessions said that reducing false tax credits given to "mostly Mexicans" could pay for the U.S.–Mexico border and it would be paid for "one way or the other".

Visit to El Paso, Texas 01
Sessions meets with Department of Justice and DHS personnel in El Paso, Texas, April 2017

Sessions attempted to block funding to sanctuary cities. Sessions also threatened to criminally prosecute uncooperative local officials. Federal judges in Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have rejected Sessions's efforts.

On March 6, 2018, Sessions sued the state of California in federal district court, alleging that the state's laws regarding prisoner release, workplace inspection, and detention site inspection are preempted by the federal government's immigration policy.

Sessions played an important role in implementing the Trump administration family separation policy wherein undocumented immigrants were separated from their children. In June 2018, Sessions gave a speech in which he cited the Bible to justify the family separation policy, declaring that people should "obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order." Christian leaders strongly disagreed with the policy, with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo calling it "immoral", Reverend Franklin Graham calling it "disgraceful", and Bishop Kenneth Carter of Session's own church (the United Methodist Church) calling it "unnecessarily cruel". Bible scholar and professor Matthew Schlimm said that history was being repeated as Sessions had taken the quote "completely out of context" just as slave traders and Nazis had misused the Bible in the past. Sessions sought to distance himself from the family separation policy, letting others in the administration take the blame.

On June 11, 2018, Sessions reversed a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals granting asylum to victims of Domestic violence. According to The New Yorker, legal experts estimated that "Sessions had single-handedly dismantled between sixty and seventy per cent of asylum jurisprudence from the previous three decades."

In April 2017, while on a radio talk show, Sessions said that he was "amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power". This was in reference to Derrick Watson, a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, blocking an executive order by President Donald Trump. After receiving criticism for the remark, Sessions said there is nothing he "would want to phrase differently" and that he "wasn't criticizing the judge or the island".

Gender identity

In a "Dear Colleague" letter issued February 22, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education withdrew and rescinded the 2016 "Dear Colleague" letter issued jointly by the same organizations. The earlier "Dear Colleague" letter, issued on May 13, 2016, had established that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 allows access to sex-segregated facilities (such as restrooms) corresponding to a student's gender identity. The 2017 letter argued that the 2016 letter lacked "extensive legal analysis", did not "explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX", and it had not undergone "any formal public process". Sessions issued a statement which said "Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue."

On October 4, 2017, Sessions released a Department of Justice (DoJ) memo interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, stating that Title VII "is ordinarily defined to mean biologically male or female," but it "does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se." The memo was written to withdraw an earlier DoJ memorandum issued by Eric Holder on December 15, 2014, which aligned the DoJ with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on interpreting Title VII to include gender identity or transgender status as a protected class. At that time, DoJ had already stopped opposing claims of discrimination brought by federal transgender employees. Devin O'Malley, representing the DoJ, stated "the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle [that the Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided], which necessitated today's action." Sharon McGowan, a lawyer with Lambda Legal who previously served in the Civil Rights division of DoJ, rejected that argument, saying "this memo [issued by Sessions] is not actually a reflection of the law as it is – it's a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were" and "[t]he Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court."

Turkey's sanctions against Sessions

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on top Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in October 2016, several months after a failed coup attempt in Turkey. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Sessions's assets in Turkey frozen in retaliation for U.S. sanctions.

Resignation

On November 7, 2018 (the day after the 2018 midterm elections), Sessions resigned as attorney general at the president's request.

U.S. Senate campaign (2020)

Jeff Sessions in June 2020
Sessions at a press event in Birmingham, Alabama on June 24, 2020

In October 2019, Sessions began exploring a potential candidacy for his old Senate seat in the 2020 election. On November 7, 2019, Sessions, the night before the deadline to file in the hyper-competitive Republican race, announced his candidacy. The winner of the Republican primary would challenge incumbent Democrat Doug Jones.

With no candidate acquiring more than 50% of the vote in the Republican primary, Sessions advanced to the run-off originally to be held on March 31, but delayed until July 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sessions faced the former head football coach at Auburn University, Tommy Tuberville. During the primary, Alabama's senior senator Richard Shelby asked Trump to stay out of the race. However, after the first-round primary Trump endorsed Tuberville. Throughout the campaign, Sessions had called himself an ally and supporter of Trump. However, on April 3 the Trump campaign sent a letter to Sessions, objecting and condemning the connections that Sessions has made between him and Trump during the Senate race.

Throughout the campaign Sessions repeatedly defended attacks from the President on Twitter. On May 22, 2020, President Trump tweeted "3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began. Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down ..." Sessions responded the next day by tweeting: "Mr. President, Alabama can and does trust me, as do conservatives across the country. Perhaps you've forgotten. They trusted me when I stepped out and put that trust on the line for you." The President responded directly by continuing to deride Sessions, while further encouraging him to drop out of the race entirely.

Sessions lost the Alabama Senate Primary to Tommy Tuberville on July 14, 2020. A Washington Post headline read, "Sessions loses runoff in Alabama as Trump helps end career of key supporter he came to despise". Illinois Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger said, "Jeff was the first elected official to support you ... seems loyalty is expected from you but not granted."

Political positions

During his tenure, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.

Immigration

Jeff Sessions by Gage Skidmore
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions addressing voters in 2011

Sessions was an opponent of legal and illegal immigration during his time in Congress. He opposed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and the bi-partisan Gang of Eight's Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. He said that a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants undermines the rule of law, that the inflow of guest workers and immigrants depresses wages and raises unemployment for United States citizens, and that current immigration policy expands an underclass dependent on the welfare state. In a May 2006 floor speech, he said, "Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society." He is a supporter of E-Verify, the federal database that allows businesses to electronically verify the immigration status of potential new hires, and has advocated for expanded construction of a Southern border fence. In 2013, Sessions said an opt-out provision in immigration legislation before Congress would allow Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to avoid building a border fence. PolitiFact called Session's statement false, stating that the provision would allow Napolitano to determine where the fence was built, not to opt out of building it entirely.

Sessions's Senate website expressed his view that there is a "clear nexus between immigration and terrorism" and that "Plainly, there is no way to vet these refugees" who would immigrate to the U.S. from Syria in 2016 or who came to the U.S. after September 11, 2001, and were alleged to be involved in terrorism. The news release said that "the absence of derogatory information in our systems about an individual does not mean that admitting that individual carries no risk." Sessions has expressed the view that the children of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries are "susceptible to the toxic radicalization of terrorist organizations". He supported establishing safe zones as an alternative to immigration from war-torn countries.

Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon talked about Jeff Sessions as the leader of the movement for slowing down both legal and illegal immigration before Donald Trump came to the scene, considering his work to kill immigration reform as akin "to the civil rights movement of 1960". Sessions and his communications director Stephen Miller developed what Miller describes as "nation-state populism" as a response to globalization and immigration.

Immigration is the issue that brought Sessions and Trump together. Trump has credited Sessions as an influential advisor on immigration. After Trump was elected and announced Sessions as his attorney general nominee, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh observed "It's almost as if Sessions wrote Trump's immigration platform."

On June 18, 2018, a group of more than 600 United Methodist Church clergy and laity announced that they were bringing church law charges against Sessions. The members of the group accused him of "child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the doctrine of the United Methodist Church".

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a woman and her child fled domestic abuse in El Salvador to seek asylum in the U.S. However the mother was removed from her detention facility and likely put on a plane on August 9, 2018, despite Justice Department promises that she and others would not be deported before the judge could rule on their cases. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan demanded, "Turn that plane around." He threatened to hold those responsible for the removal in contempt of court, starting with Sessions, if the situation was not rectified. A Department of Homeland Security official stated, "We are complying with the court's requests ... the plaintiffs will not disembark and will be promptly returned to the United States." An ACLU suit challenged a decision by Sessions to make it nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence to qualify for asylum in the U.S.

Foreign and military policy

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions speaks during Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) 2012 in Nashville, TN
Senator Sessions speaks during Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) 2012 in Nashville, TN

In 2005, Sessions spoke at a rally in Washington, D.C. in favor of the War in Iraq organized in opposition to an anti-war protest held the day before. Sessions said of the anti-war protesters: "The group who spoke here the other day did not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world. I frankly don't know what they represent, other than to blame America first." The same year, he opposed legislation by Senator John McCain prohibiting the U.S. military from engaging in torture; the amendment passed 90–9.

Sessions opposed the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the 2011 military intervention in Libya, and arming the Syrian rebels. As Attorney General, he reportedly advised President Trump against increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

In the 109th Congress, Sessions introduced legislation to increase the death gratuity benefit for families of service members from $12,420 to $100,000. The bill also increased the level of coverage under the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance from $250,000 to $400,000. Sessions's legislation was accepted in the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2005.

In June 2014, Sessions was one of three senators to vote against additional funding for the VA medical system. He opposed the bill due to cost concerns and indicated that Congress should instead focus on "reforms and solutions that improve the quality of service and the effectiveness that is delivered".

In September 2016, in advance of a UN Security Council resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Sessions signed an AIPAC-sponsored letter urging President Barack Obama to veto "one-sided" resolutions against Israel.

Economic issues

Sessions voted for the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, and said he would vote to make them permanent if given the chance. He is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Sessions was one of 25 senators to vote against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the bank bailout), arguing that it "undermines our heritage of law and order, and is an affront to the principle of separation of powers".

Sessions opposed the $837 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, calling it "the largest spending bill in the history of the republic". In late 2011 he also expressed skepticism about the $447 billion jobs bill proposed by President Obama, and disputed the notion that the bill would be paid for without adding to the national debt.

Higher education and research

In 2013, Sessions sent a letter to National Endowment for the Humanities enquiring why the foundation funded projects that he deemed frivolous. He also criticized the foundation for distributing books related to Islam to hundreds of U.S. libraries, saying "Using taxpayer dollars to fund education program grant questions that are very indefinite or in an effort to seemingly use Federal funds on behalf of just one religion, does not on its face appear to be the appropriate means to establish confidence in the American people that NEH expenditures are wise."

Social issues

Sessions voted against the Matthew Shepard Act, which added acts of bias-motivated violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate-crimes law, commenting that it "has been said to cheapen the civil rights movement". Sessions "believes that a marriage is union between a man and a woman, and has routinely criticized the U.S. Supreme Court and activist lower courts when they try to judicially redefine marriage". Sessions voted in favor of advancing the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006, a U.S. constitutional amendment which would have permanently restricted federal recognition of marriages to those between a man and a woman. Sessions voted against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

Sessions has also said regarding the appointment of a gay Supreme Court justice, "I do not think that a person who acknowledges that they have gay tendencies is disqualified, per se, for the job" but "that would be a big concern that the American people might feel – might feel uneasy about that."

Jeff Sessions by Gage Skidmore 2
Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

Sessions believes "that sanctity of life begins at conception".

Sessions was one of 34 senators to vote against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which was vetoed by President Bush and would have provided funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

Health care reform

In 2006, Sessions coauthored legislation amending the Ryan White CARE Act to increase the share of HIV/AIDS funding going to rural states, including Alabama.

Sessions opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Following Senator Ted Cruz's 21-hour speech opposing the Affordable Care Act in 2013, Sessions joined Cruz and 17 other senators in a failed vote against cloture on a comprehensive government funding bill that would have continued funding healthcare reform.

Energy and environment

Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference London 2018 (44523848554) (cropped)
Sessions speaks at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London in 2018

Sessions rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He has voted in favor of legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. He has voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Sessions is a proponent of nuclear power.

Judicial nominations

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions defended unsuccessful circuit court nominee Charles W. Pickering against allegations of racism, saying he was "a leader for racial harmony". Sessions rejected criticisms of successful circuit court nominee Dennis Shedd's record, saying he "should have been commended for the rulings he has made". In 2003, Sessions viewed criticisms of Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr.'s ultimately successful circuit court appointment as being due to his faith, stating that "Are we not saying that good Catholics need not apply?"

Sessions was a supporter of the "nuclear option", a tactic considered by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the spring of 2005 to change longstanding Senate rules to stop Democratic filibusters (or, "talking a bill to death") of some of George W. Bush's nominees to the federal courts. When the "Gang of 14" group of moderate senators reached an agreement to allow filibusters under "extraordinary circumstances", Sessions accepted the agreement but argued that "a return to the tradition of up-or-down votes on all judicial nominees would ... strengthen the Senate."

While serving as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee in the 110th Congress, Sessions was the senior Republican who questioned Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Sessions focused on Sotomayor's views on empathy as a quality for a judge, arguing that "empathy for one party is always prejudice against another." Sessions also questioned the nominee about her views on the use of foreign law in deciding cases, as well as her role in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). On July 28, 2009, Sessions joined five Republican colleagues in voting against Sotomayor's nomination in the Judiciary Committee. The committee approved Sotomayor by a vote of 13–6. Sessions also voted against Sotomayor when her nomination came before the full Senate. He was one of 31 senators (all Republicans) to do so, while 68 voted to confirm the nominee.

Sessions also served as the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee during the nomination process for Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. Sessions based his opposition on the nominee's lack of experience, her background as a political operative (Kagan had said that she worked in the Clinton White House not as a lawyer but as a policy adviser), and her record on guns, and gay rights. Sessions pointed out that Kagan "has a very thin record legally, never tried a case, never argued before a jury, only had her first appearance in the appellate courts a year ago".

Sessions focused the majority of his criticism on Kagan's treatment of the military while she was dean of Harvard Law School. During her tenure, Kagan reinstated the practice of requiring military recruiters to coordinate their activities through a campus veterans organization, rather than the school's Office of Career Services. Kagan argued that she was trying to comply with a law known as the Solomon Amendment, which barred federal funds from any college or university that did not grant military recruiters equal access to campus facilities. Sessions asserted that Kagan's action was a violation of the Solomon Amendment and that it amounted to "demeaning and punishing the military". He also argued that her action showed a willingness to place her politics above the law, and questioned "whether she had the intellectual honesty, the clarity of mind, that you would expect on the Supreme Court".

On July 20, 2010, Sessions and five Republican colleagues voted against Kagan's nomination. Despite this, the Judiciary Committee approved the nomination by a 13–6 vote. Sessions also voted against Kagan in the full Senate vote, joining 36 other senators (including one Democrat) in opposition. 63 senators voted to confirm Kagan. Following the vote, Sessions remarked on future nominations and elections, saying that Americans would "not forgive the Senate if we further expose our Constitution to revision and rewrite by judicial fiat to advance what President Obama says is a broader vision of what America should be".

In March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sessions said the Senate "should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until a new president is elected".

Legislation

In 1999, Sessions cosponsored the bill to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.

On December 11, 2013, Sessions cosponsored the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2013, a bill that would reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 and would authorize funding through 2018 to help child abuse victims. Sessions argued that "there is no higher duty than protecting our nation's children, and this bill is an important step to ensure the most vulnerable children receive the care and support they deserve."

Personal life

Sessions and his wife Mary have three children and as of March 2020, ten grandchildren. The family attends a United Methodist church. Specifically, Jeff and Mary Sessions are members of the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama; Jeff Sessions has taught Sunday school there.

Electoral history

2020

2020 Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Tommy Tuberville 333,890 60.7
Republican Jeff Sessions 215,831 39.3

2014

2014 United States Senate election in Alabama
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions (incumbent) 795,606 97.25%
Write-ins Other 22,484 2.75%
Total votes 818,090 100.00%
Republican hold

2008

2008 Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions (incumbent) 199,690 92.27
Republican Zach McCann 16,718 7.73
2008 United States Senate election in Alabama
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Jeff Sessions (incumbent) 1,305,383 63.36% +4.78%
Democratic Vivian Davis Figures 752,391 36.52% -3.31%
Write-ins 2,417 0.12% +0.02%

2002

2002 United States Senate election in Alabama
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Jeff Sessions (incumbent) 792,561 58.58% +6.13%
Democratic Susan Parker 538,878 39.83% -5.63%
Libertarian Jeff Allen 20,234 1.5% +0.06%
Write-ins 1,350 0.10% +0.06%

1996

1996 Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions 82,373 37.81
Republican Sid McDonald 47,320 21.72
Republican Charles Woods 24,409 11.20
Republican Frank McRight 21,964 10.08
Republican Walter D. Clark 18,745 8.60
Republican Jimmy Blake 15,385 7.06
Republican Albert Lipscomb 7,672 3.52
1996 Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions 81,681 59.26
Republican Sid McDonald 56,156 40.74
1996 United States Senate election in Alabama
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions 786,436 52.45
Democratic Roger Bedford 681,651 45.46
Libertarian Mark Thornton 21,550 1.44
Natural Law Charles R. Hebner 9,123 0.61
Write-in 633 0.04

1994

1994 Alabama Attorney General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions 667,010 56.87
Democratic Jimmy Evans (incumbent) 505,137 43.07
Write-in 660 0.00

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Jeff Sessions para niños

  • 2017 dismissal of U.S. attorneys
  • Mueller report
  • Nobody Is Above the Law
  • Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
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