Trump chooses Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director

Washington Post

President-elect Donald Trump announced Friday that he plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as CIA director, the first selections to his Cabinet as his transition continues to build momentum.

Trump also confirmed that he has selected retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as his national security adviser, news that had been reported a day earlier.  

“The president-elect is a man of action, and we’ve got a great number of men and women with great qualifications look forward to serving in this administration, and I am just humbled to be a part of it,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters in New York. “Our agency teams arrived in Washington D.C. this morning, and I am very confident it will be a smooth transition that will serve to lead this country forward.”

In a statement, Trump called Sessions one of his most trusted campaign advisers and cited his “world-class legal mind.”

“Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” Trump said.

Sessions, 69, was Trump’s first endorser in the Senate and quickly became the then-candidate’s chief resource on policy, but his hard-line views on immigration are expected to make his nomination controversial among human rights groups and Democrats.

The fourth-term senator has been dogged by accusations of racism throughout his career.

In 1986, he was denied a federal judgeship after former colleagues testified before a Senate committee that he joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said in a statement. “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Sessions served as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and as Alabama’s attorney general. In a statement, he said there was “no greater honor” than to lead the Justice Department.

“I will give all my strength to advance the Department’s highest ideals,” he said. “I enthusiastically embrace President-elect Trump’s vision for ‘one America,’ and his commitment to equal justice under law. I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), a key Judiciary Committee member who had been wary of Trump during the campaign, intends to support Sessions’s nomination, his office said.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called Sessions a respected member who “has worked across the aisle on major legislation. He knows the Justice Department as a former U.S. attorney, which would serve him very well in this position. With this background, I’m confident he would be reported favorably out of the committee.”

Several Senate Democrats pledged a rigorous confirmation review, but some conservatives suggested it would be politically damaging to Democrats if they attempt to block Trump’s nominees.

“Mr. Trump has a plane and double-digit victories where Senate Democrats are up for reelection,” said Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of The Federalist Society. “Obstructing his nominees will be a political loser.”

Should Sessions win confirmation as attorney general, his Senate seat could be swiftly filled under Alabama law.

The state’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, can immediately make a temporary appointment to fill the seat once it is declared vacant, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Bentley also has the power to set the date for a subsequent special election to fill the seat until Sessions’s term is set to expire, in 2020. That election could be set to coincide with the next general election in 2018.

Pompeo, 52, was elected to the House in 2010 as part of the first wave of so-called tea party lawmakers. A U.S. Military Academy and Harvard Law School graduate, he has a varied background. He served as a U.S. Army cavalry officer before founding an aerospace company, serving as president of an oil-field equipment manufacturing firm and — in a brief, little-known chapter of his early career — was an attorney with the Washington, D.C. mega-law firm Williams and Connolly.

He currently serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is a close ally of Pence.

“He has served our country with honor and spent his life fighting for the security of our citizens,” Trump said of Pompeo in a statement.

Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at the U.S. Military Academy, would make a good CIA director, said one former CIA official who recently spoke with Pompeo but declined to be named because his conversation with the congressman was private.

“He took his duties on the House Intelligence Committee very seriously and understood the role of intelligence in foreign policy and our democracy,” said the former official. “I got no sense of a preconceived agenda and no political comments. Rather, a very smart and decent man who cared about the country and wanted very much to understand the world of intelligence, which is a different world than many ordinarily inhabit.”

Notably, Pompeo backed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) over Trump in the Republican presidential primary. In May, a Pompeo spokesman gave a somewhat tepid endorsement, saying the congressman would “support the nominee of the Republican Party because Hillary Clinton cannot be president of the United States.”

Pompeo is a vocal critic of President Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran. “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” he tweeted Thursday, before his offer to become CIA director was public.

The choices of Sessions and Pompeo follow Trump’s decision to offer the position of national security adviser to Flynn, and confirm the president-elect’s desire to assemble his Cabinet by naming national security and law enforcement leaders first.

At the same time, Trump is soliciting the help of Mitt Romney, a mainstream consensus figure who had been the face of the Republican resistance to Trump’s candidacy, in assembling his government.

Trump sought a meeting with Romney, scheduled for this weekend, to broker peace — and Sessions, a vice chairman of Trump’s transition, told reporters that Trump could consider the 2012 GOP presidential nominee for an administration position, perhaps secretary of state.

The presence of Flynn and Romney in Trump’s orbit sends mixed signals to already jittery leaders around the globe, as well as officials in Washington’s foreign policy community, about the tone and substance of the Trump administration’s posture to the world.

Flynn, who would hold the most powerful national security position, is a retired three-star general and decorated intelligence officer who established a close relationship with Trump while campaigning at his side this year. His behavior and a string of controversial and dark statements about Islam, among other topics, have alarmed many of his former colleagues.

Trump’s selection of Flynn, which was first reported by the Associated Press, comes after the president-elect enraged Democrats and civil rights groups by appointing Stephen K. Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, an alt-right news site that has become a forum for the white nationalist movement, as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House.

Flynn was widely expected to be tapped as national security adviser. A vice chairman of the transition team, Flynn has been a frequent presence at Trump Tower since the election. But the role of Romney was a surprising development, coming as Trump is expanding his outreach to foreign leaders.

The Trump-Romney relationship has been marked by acrimony: Trump has said Romney “walks like a penguin” and “choked like a dog,” while Romney labeled Trump “a phony, a fraud” who threatens national security.

But Romney is said to feel compelled by patriotic duty to answer Trump’s call for counsel, and he has long been animated by global affairs and enticed by a return to government service — even if he stops short of acquiescing and agreeing to join the Cabinet should Trump extend an offer.

“I think it’s good that the ­president-elect is meeting with people like Mr. Romney,” Sessions said. “He’s meeting with a lot of talented people that he needs good relationships with. I think Mr. Romney would be quite capable of doing a number of things, but he’ll be one of those I’m sure that’s reviewed, and Mr. Trump will make that decision.”

Others close to the transition, however, said they doubted Romney ultimately would be in the mix for a Cabinet post.

Romney would be a more conventional choice than two others who are considered to be leading contenders to helm the State Department: former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton.

A fourth prospect, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, was thrust into the mix for secretary of state after she met Thursday with the president-elect in his Trump Tower office. Haley, who is close with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, criticized Trump during the primaries but has since said she is encouraged by the promise of his presidency.

Calling Haley “unbelievably talented,” Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer said on CNN: “Donald Trump right now isn’t looking to figure out who supported him and who didn’t . . . As long as they are committed to bringing change to Washington and making this country better, then they can be part of this team.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who had been considered a potential pick as secretary of state or another Cabinet position, announced Thursday that he had decided to serve Trump only as an outside adviser.

11 thoughts on “Trump chooses Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director

  1. I stand corrected. Besides looking into all that you said…he’s done so much more. As my basic radar runs…..he has done a lot wrong. Anti-american. No wonder he’s been in office so long, of course. And it’s moron , not maroon . That I was.

  2. The question is what is the better choice. We have a LOON in the whitehouse with his finger poised ON THE BUTTON, and Killery Clinton would have walked in on January 20th and slambed the button home. There would be no Russia, and the Russians would have blown our country straight to hell in responce. People better let that burn in real good. Trump isn’t going to do what I just discribed.

    Repreve? I little while. Yes The Trump people are another eastern sea bourd power faction with a different agenda. Make no mistake about that. On the other hand we have a chance now to get our preparations dialed in better, and more people woken up and prepared.

    The quesion people need to ask themselves is which would you rather have? 1 – A devastated northern hemisphere poisoned and most dead and few that are left dieing of radiation poisoning (extinction of the Caucasian race), or 2 – Trump diverting the worst of the criminals fighting them while we get ready to take our constitution back.

    There is a new syndicate leader of USA Inc. Get over it! We all have a chance to gear up for the civil war/economic collapse/road warrior, or whatever back thing that they through at us. We need to take this time we are given to get stuff DONE.. Does the rigged elections mean anything? NO. Probably not. WE HAVE NO POWER. Only thing we have is Amendment 2 and our Winchester model 70 or whatever and our wits. Main thing now is to stay out of trouble, get done what we can with the extra TIME we were just given.

    Henry or Mark aught to getting this guy on the show. Has some realistic ideas.

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