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Jeff Sessions

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Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions official portrait.jpg
84th United States Attorney General
Assumed office
February 9, 2017
President Donald Trump
Deputy Rod Rosenstein (Nominee)
Preceded by Loretta Lynch
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 Bill Pryor
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama
In office
February 1981 – March 23, 1993
President Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded by William Kimbrough
Succeeded by Don Foster
Personal details
Born Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
(1946-12-24) December 24, 1946 (age 70)
Selma, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Blackshear
Children 3
Education Huntingdon College (BA)
University of Alabama (JD)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1973–1977
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit 1184th United States Army Transportation Terminal Unit
United States Army Reserve

Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III (born December 24, 1946) is an American politician and lawyer who is the 84th Attorney General of the United States. Sessions served as the junior United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 until 2017, and is a member of the Republican Party. From 1981 to 1993, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, in 1993 he was asked to resign from his job as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama by Bill Clinton two months into the president's first term. Sessions was nominated in 1986 to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but his nomination failed due to criticism of his record on civil rights, as well as allegations that he had made racially insensitive remarks. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994, and to the U.S. Senate in 1996, being re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014.

During his time in Congress, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. He opposed legal and illegal immigration and amnesty and supported expansion of the border fence with Mexico. He supported the major legislative efforts of the George W. Bush administration, including the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages, the Iraq War, and a proposed national amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He opposed the establishment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2009 stimulus bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed all three of President Obama's nominees for the Supreme Court.

An early supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions was considered as a possible Vice Presidential nominee, but Indiana governor Mike Pence was ultimately selected for the ticket. In November 2016, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Sessions for US Attorney General. He was confirmed on February 8, 2017, with a 52–47 vote in the Senate, and was sworn in on February 9.

In his Attorney General confirmation hearings, Sessions said that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. In March 2017, news reports revealed that Sessions had twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016. Sessions subsequently recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election while some Democratic lawmakers called for his resignation.

Education and early career

He was born in Selma, Alabama, on December 24, 1946,[1] the son of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jr., and the former Abbie Powe.[2] His father owned a general store in Hybart, Alabama, and then a farm equipment dealership. Both of Sessions's parents were of primarily English ancestry, with some Scots-Irish.[3][4] In 1964, Sessions became an Eagle Scout, and later, he earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for his many years of service.[5]

After attending Wilcox County High School in nearby Camden, Sessions studied at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1969. He was active in the Young Republicans and was student body president.[6] Sessions attended the University of Alabama School of Law and graduated with a J.D. degree in 1973.[7]

Sessions entered private practice in Russellville and later in Mobile,[8] where he now lives.[9] He also served in the Army Reserve in the 1970s with the rank of captain.[8]

Political career

U.S. Attorney

Sessions was an Assistant US Attorney in the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama beginning in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan nominated him to be the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Senate confirmed him and he held that position for 12 years until Bill Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, asked for his resignation.[10]

Sessions's office filed civil rights charges in the 1981 killing of Michael Donald, a young African-American man who was murdered in Mobile, Alabama by a pair of Ku Klux Klan members.[11][12] Sessions's office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.[13]

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.[14][15] Interviewed in 2009, Sessions said he remained convinced that he did the right thing, but admitted he "failed to make the case".[16]

Failed nomination to the district court

In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.[17] Sessions's judicial nomination was recommended and actively backed by Republican Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton.[18] 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".[19] His nomination was opposed by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and People for the American Way.[15]

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[20]) and that they did more harm than good by trying to force civil rights "down the throats of people".[21] Hebert, a civil rights lawyer,[22] 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".[23] 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.[20]

Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was "OK until I found out they smoked pot". Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but did apologize for it, saying that he considered the Klan to be "a force for hatred and bigotry".[24] Barry Kowalski, a prosecutor in the civil rights division, also heard the remark and testified that prosecutors working such a gruesome case sometimes "resort to operating room humor and that is what I considered it to be". Another DOJ lawyer, Albert Glenn, said, "It never occurred to me that there was any seriousness to it."[25][20][23][24] Figures testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions "had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them'", by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally. Kowalski, however, testified that he believed "[Sessions] was eager to see that justice was done in the area of criminal civil rights prosecutions."[25]

Figures also said that Sessions had called him "boy", which Sessions denied. Figures testified that two assistant prosecutors had also heard Sessions, including current federal judge Ginny Granade. Granade denied this.[17][26] He also testified that "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks'." Sessions denied this.[27] In 1992, Figures was charged with attempting to bribe a witness by offering $50,000 to a convicted drug dealer who was to testify against his client. Figures claimed the charge was retaliation for his role in blocking the Sessions nomination. Sessions denied this, saying that he recused himself from the case. Figures was ultimately acquitted.[28][29][30]

Hebert, Kowalski and Daniel Bell, deputy chief of the criminal section in the Civil Rights Division, testified that they considered Sessions to have been more welcoming to the work of the Civil Rights Division than many other Southern US Attorneys at the time.[20][23] Sessions has always defended his civil rights record, saying that "when I was [a U.S. Attorney], I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies".[31] Critics later argued that Sessions had exaggerated his involvement in civil rights cases. Michigan Law professor Samuel Bagenstos, reviewing Sessions's claims, argued that "[a]ll this shows is that Sessions didn't completely refuse to participate in or have his name on pleadings in cases that the civil rights division brought during his tenure ... These four cases are awfully weak evidence of Sessions's supposed commitment to civil rights."[32]

Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose the nomination. In her letter, she wrote that "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters."[33]

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.[34] 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.[19]

Sessions became only the second nominee to the federal judiciary in 48 years whose nomination was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.[24] He was quoted then as saying that the Senate on occasion had been insensitive to the rights and reputation of nominees.[35][36] 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".[37]

After joining the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions remarked that his presence there, alongside several of the members who voted against him, was a "great irony".[35] 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 nomination was a mistake, because he had "since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian".[38]

Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Senate

Senators Sessions and 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 Edward 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 led the state's defense of a school funding model which was ultimately found to be unconstitutional because of disparities between rich, mostly white, and poor, mostly black, schools.[39][40][41]

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.[6] He succeeded Howell Heflin, who had retired after 18 years in the Senate. That same year, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued the state of Alabama after the Alabama Legislature attempted to deny funding to student organizations that advocated on behalf of homosexuality at public universities.[42] As Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions defended the state, arguing that funding should not be provided to student groups that advocated unlawful behavior, including the breaking of sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.[43] Sessions also argued that "the State of Alabama will experience irreparable harm by funding a conference and activities in violation of state law". A U.S. District court ultimately ruled the law unconstitutional in Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance v. Sessions, 917 F. Supp. 1548 (1996).[42]

Senators Sessions and 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[44] and was uncontested in both the Republican primary and the general election.[45][46]

Sessions was only the second freshman Republican senator from Alabama since Reconstruction and gave Alabama two Republican senators, a first since Reconstruction. He was easily reelected in 2002, becoming 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).[45]

Sessions was the ranking Republican member on the Senate Budget Committee,[47] 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 the Center for Responsive Politics, between 1995 and 2016, Sessions's largest donors came from the legal, retired, health, real estate, and insurance industries.[48] From 1995 to 2016, the corporations employing donors who gave the most to his campaign were the Southern Company utility firm, Balch & Bingham law firm, Drummond Company coal mining firm, Collazo Enterprises, and Vulcan Materials.[49]

2016 presidential election

Sessions speaking at a campaign event for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on August 31, 2016

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.[50] Sessions donned a "Make America Great Again" cap at a Trump rally in August 2015, and Stephen Miller, Sessions's longtime-communications director, joined the Trump campaign.[51] On February 28, 2016, Sessions officially endorsed Donald Trump for president. Sessions's and Rudy Giuliani's appearance was a staple at Trump campaign rallies.[52] The Trump campaign considered Sessions for the position of running mate, and Sessions was widely seen as a potential Cabinet secretary in a Trump administration.[50]


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,[53] while Peter Thiel advocated for private spaceflight.[54]

Attorney General of the United States


President-elect Trump announced on November 18, 2016, that he would nominate Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States.[55] 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."[56] More than 1,400 law school professors wrote a letter urging the Senate to reject the nomination.[57][58] A group of black pastors rallied in support of Sessions in advance of his confirmation hearing,[59] and his nomination was supported by Gerald A. Reynolds, an African-American former chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.[58] Six NAACP activists, including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, were arrested at a January 2017 sit in protesting the nomination.[60][61]

On January 10, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination began[62] and were interrupted by protesters.[63][64] The committee approved his nomination February 1 on an 11 to 9 party-line vote.[65] The nomination then went to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.[66] 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.[67] 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".[68] A few hours later Senator Jeff Merkley read without interruption the same letter by King that Warren had attempted to read.[69][70]

On February 8, he was confirmed as Attorney General by a vote of 52 to 47.[71][72]

Russia controversy

Sen. Franken questioning Sessions

On March 1, 2017, Sessions came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that he had contact with Russian government officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, even though during his confirmation hearings he denied he had any discussions with representatives of the Russian government. Democratic representatives have asked Sessions to resign his post as United States Attorney General.[73][74]

On March 2, Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from any investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.[75]

At the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January, Senator Al Franken asked Sessions what he would do as Attorney General "if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign." Sessions replied, "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."[76]

In his January 17 responses to written questions presented by Senator Pat Leahy, Sessions state that he had not had contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government regarding the 2016 election.[77][78]

On March 1, news reports revealed that Sessions had spoken twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States. The first communication took place after a Heritage Foundation event at the 2016 Republican National Convention attended by several ambassadors, including the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak who spoke with Senator Sessions privately. The next interaction between Sessions and Kislyak took place September 8, 2016, when they met in Sessions's office during the alleged Russian cyber hacking campaign and interference in the US presidential election.[77]

On March 1, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sessions's contact with the Russians had been investigated. It was not clear whether the investigation was ongoing.[79]

Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal

In a statement on March 1, Sessions said, "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."[80][81][82] According to Sessions, he talked with Russia's ambassador about the Ukraine and terrorism.[83] US Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said that, "There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer. He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign – not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee ... Last year, the Senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassador."[84][81][85][86]

Senator Lindsey Graham called for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.[87] Representative Nancy Pelosi stated that Sessions had "lied under oath" and called for his resignation.[88] Representative Elijah Cummings said that "when Senator Sessions testified under oath that 'I did not have communications with the Russians,' his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks – and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn't know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians". Cummings also called for Sessions's resignation.[89] Senator Franken commented that he believes that Sessions perjured himself in his confirmation hearing.[90]

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in the first week of March 2017 found that 51% of respondents wanted Sessions to resign, as a result of his testimony during his confirmation hearings. The same poll also found that 66% of respondents wanted an independent investigation into the connections between Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government.[91]

Political positions

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions addressing voters in 2011

During his tenure, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.[92][93]


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 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."[94][95] He is a supporter of E-Verify, the federal database that allows businesses to electronically verify the immigration status of potential new hires,[96] and has advocated for expanded construction of a Southern border fence.[97] In 2013, Sessions said that 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, but not opt out of building it entirely.[98]

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."[99][100] Sessions has expressed the view that the children of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries are "susceptible to the toxic radicalization of terrorist organizations" on the basis of the Orlando and San Bernardino Attacks.[101][102] Sessions supported establishing safe zones as an alternative to immigration from war-torn countries.[103][104]

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 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.[105]

Immigration is the issue that brought Sessions and Trump together.[106] Trump has credited Sessions as an influential advisor on immigration.[107][108] After Trump was elected and announced Sessions as his Attorney General nominee, Cato Institute immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh observed "It's almost as if Sessions wrote Trump's immigration platform."[109]

Foreign and military policy

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."[110] The same year, he opposed legislation by Senator John McCain prohibiting the US military from engaging in torture; the amendment passed 90–9.[111]

In the 109th Congress, Sessions introduced legislation to increase the death gratuity benefit for families of servicemembers from $12,420 to $100,000.[112] 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.[113]

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".[114]

Crime and security

Senator Sessions and Indiana Governor/Republican Vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence at an immigration policy speech in Phoenix, Arizona in August 2016

Sessions supported the reduction (but not the elimination) of the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine, ultimately passed into law with the Fair Sentencing Act 2010.[40][115][116]

On October 5, 2005, Sessions was one of nine Senators who voted against a Senate amendment to a House bill that prohibited cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government.[117]

In November 2010, Sessions was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the committee voted unanimously in favor of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), and sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration.[118] The proposed law would allow the Attorney General to ask a court to issue a restraining order on Internet domain names that host copyright-infringing material.[118]

Sessions has been a strong supporter of civil forfeiture, the government practice of seizing property when it has allegedly been involved in a crime.[119] Sessions opposes "any reform" of civil forfeiture legislation.[120]

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.[121] He is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge.[122]

In 2006, Sessions received the "Guardian of Small Business" award from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB),[123] an honor that the organization bestows upon legislators who vote in accord with its stance on small business issues at least 70% of the time.[124] He was recognized by the NFIB again in 2008[125] and 2010;[124] in 2014 the organization endorsed him in his run for a fourth term, noting that he had achieved a 100% NFIB voting record on key issues for small businesses in the 112th Congress.[126]

Sessions was one of 29 senators who voted for an amendment to the 2008 budget resolution, offered by Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, that would have placed a one-year moratorium on the practice of earmarking.[127]

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".[128]

Sessions opposed the $837 billion stimulus bill, calling it "the largest spending bill in the history of the republic".[129] 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.[130]

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.[131] 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."[132]

Social issues

In the 114th United States Congress, Sessions earned a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the United States' largest LGBTQ advocacy group.[133] He 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,[134] commenting that it "has been said to cheapen the civil rights movement".[135] 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".[136] 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.[134] Sessions voted against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[137]

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"[138] but "that would be a big concern that the American people might feel—might feel uneasy about that".[139]

Sessions is against legalizing marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use. "I'm a big fan of the DEA", he said during a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee.[140] Sessions was "heartbroken" and found "it beyond comprehension" when President Obama said that cannabis is not as dangerous as alcohol.[141] In April 2016, he said that it was important to foster "knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about ... and to send that message with clarity that good people don't smoke marijuana".[142]

Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

Sessions believes "that sanctity of life begins at conception".[136]

Sessions was one of 34 Senators to vote against[143] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007,[144] which would have provided funding for human embryonic stem cell research (and was vetoed by President Bush).

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.[145]

Sessions opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[146] and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[147]

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.[148]

Energy and environment

Sessions is skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change.[149] He has voted in favor of legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.[150] He has voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.[151] The League of Conservation Voters, a pro-environment advocacy group, gave him a lifetime score of 7%.[152] Sessions is a proponent of nuclear power.[153]

Supreme Court nominations

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".[154]

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".[155] Sessions also questioned the nominee about her views on the use of foreign law in deciding cases,[156] 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.[157] 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.[158]

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[159]), and her record on guns, abortion, 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."[160]

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".[161] 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".[161][162]

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".[163]

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".[164]


In 1999, Sessions cosponsored the bill to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.[12]

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.[165] 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".[165]

Committee assignments

Personal life

He and his wife Mary have three children and six grandchildren.[167] The family is United Methodist. Sessions is a Sunday school teacher at the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile,[168] where he and his wife are members.[169] He served as the chairman of his church's administrative board and has been selected as a delegate to the annual Alabama Methodist Conference.

Electoral history

United States Senate election in Alabama, 2014[170]
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
Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jeff Sessions* 199,690 92.27
Republican Zach McCann 16,718 7.73
United States Senate election in Alabama, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Jeff Sessions* 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%
United States Senate election in Alabama, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Jeff Sessions* 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%
Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary election, 1996
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
Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Jeff Sessions 81,681 59.26
Republican Sid McDonald 56,156 40.74
United States Senate election in Alabama, 1996
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-ins Write-ins 633 0.04


Alabama Attorney General election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jeff Sessions 667,010 56.87
Democrat Jimmy Evans* 505,137 43.07
Write-ins Write-ins 660 0.00

See also


  1. ^ "SESSIONS, Jefferson Beauregard III (Jeff) – Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ Battle, Robert. "Ancestry of Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III". Rootsweb. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  3. ^ Jeff Sessions, U.S. Senator
  4. ^ York, Byron (May 31, 2009). "The Vindication of Jeff Sessions". Washington Examiner. Retrieved November 16, 2016. 
  5. ^ Wong, Queenie (July 14, 2009). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Jeff Sessions". US News. Retrieved November 18, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "Sen. Jeff Sessions" (PDF). CQ's Politics in America: 107th Congress. CQ Press/Sage Publications. 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Key Player: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. | Online NewsHour". PBS. May 26, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "SESSIONS, Jefferson Beauregard III (Jeff)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ Ruble, Joe (November 1, 2016). "Alabama Senator Sessions stumps for Trump in Florida". News 96.5 WDBO. 
  10. ^ Reno, Janet (03/23/93). "Resignation Request Memorandum". AmericasFreedomFighters.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ "Donald Trump offers Jeff Sessions attorney general post". CBS News. November 18, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b News, A. B. C. (November 18, 2016). "What Jeff Sessions Has Said About Race and Civil Rights". ABC News. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Alabama Judge Overrules Jury, Sentences a Klansman to Death". New York Times. February 3, 1984. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  14. ^ Lee, Michelle Ye Hee (November 28, 2016). "The facts about the voter fraud case that sank Jeff Sessions's bid for a judgeship". Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Wildman, Sarah (December 29, 2002). "Closed Sessions". New Republic. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  16. ^ Hemingway, Mark (May 8, 2009). "The Court Is in Sessions". National Review. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Wildman, Sarah (May 5, 2009). "Jeff Sessions's chequered past". The Guardian. 
  18. ^ Elsasser, Glen (March 29, 1986). "Judicial Nomination `In Deep Trouble". Chicago Tribune. 
  19. ^ a b Goldman, Sheldon (1999). Picking Federal Judges. Yale University Press. p. 309. ISBN 9780300080735. 
  20. ^ a b c d Yotk, Byron (November 28, 2016). "How Joe Biden twisted the case against Jeff Sessions". Washington Examiner. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
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  24. ^ a b c Rudin, Ken; National Public Radio (May 5, 2009). "Blog: Specter Helped Defeat Sessions In 1986 Judiciary Vote". Political Junkie. NPR. Retrieved August 4, 2009.  (blog)
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  28. ^ Swaine, Jon; Laughland, Oliver (November 22, 2016). "Jeff Sessions accused of retaliation after claims of racism cost him a judgeship". The Guardian. 
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  154. ^ Sessions, Jeff (November 27, 2009). "Playing by Reid's rules on filibusters". Washington Post. Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  155. ^ Robert Barnes, Amy Goldstein,Paul Kane, "Nominee Sotomayor at center stage in Senate", San Francisco Chronicle, July 14, 2009
  156. ^ Steve Padilla, "Sotomayor hearings: Judge is adamant, Sessions is unconvinced", Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2009.
  157. ^ Hirschfeld Davis, Julie (July 28, 2009). "Judiciary Committee OKs Sotomayor for high court". Associated Press. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
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  159. ^ Kagan, Elena (October 17, 2007). "Speech to West Point Cadets" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  160. ^ Drake, Bruce (June 27, 2010). "Republicans to Focus on Whether Elena Kagan Would be a Judicial Activist". Politics Daily. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  161. ^ a b Sessions, Jeff (July 20, 2010). "Opposing view on the Supreme Court: A big-government vision". USA Today. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2016. 
  162. ^ Cheney, Catherine; Gerstein, Josh. "Sessions questions Kagan's 'honesty'". POLITICO. Retrieved November 20, 2016. 
  163. ^ Hulse, Carl (August 5, 2010). "Senate Confirms Kagan in Partisan Vote". New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  164. ^ Koplowitz, Howard (March 16, 2016). "Merrick Garland Alabama reaction: Shelby, Sessions opposed to hearings for Obama's SCOTUS pick". 
  165. ^ a b Cox, Ramsey (June 30, 2014). "Senate passes bill to protect children from abuse". The Hill. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  166. ^ a b "Committee Assignments: Standing Committees" (PDF). 
  167. ^ De La Cuetara, Ines (July 18, 2016). "Jeff Sessions: Everything You Need to Know". ABC News. 
  168. ^ Lucas, Fred (November 21, 2016). "Who Is the New Attorney General Pick, Jeff Sessions?". Newsweek. Retrieved November 24, 2016. Sessions is a Sunday school teacher at the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile and has been a delegate to the annual Alabama Methodist Conference. 
  169. ^ "U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to Deliver Faulkner Law's 2015 Commencement Address". Faulkner University. March 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2016. Senator Sessions and his wife Mary Blackshear Sessions (also a native of Alabama) are members of the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile. He serves as a lay leader and Sunday school teacher there. 
  170. ^ "Certified General Election Results" (PDF). Alabama Secretary of State. Retrieved January 7, 2015. 


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

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Legal offices
Preceded by
Jimmy Evans
Attorney General of Alabama
Succeeded by
Bill Pryor
Preceded by
Loretta Lynch
United States Attorney General
Party political offices
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Bill Cabaniss
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
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Arlen Specter
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Chuck Grassley
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