|84th United States Attorney General|
February 9, 2017
|Preceded by||Loretta Lynch|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1997 – February 8, 2017
|Preceded by||Howell Heflin|
|Succeeded by||Luther Strange|
|44th Attorney General of Alabama|
January 16, 1995 – January 3, 1997
|Preceded by||Jimmy Evans|
|Succeeded by||Bill Pryor|
|United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama|
February 1981 – March 23, 1993
George H. W. Bush
|Preceded by||William Kimbrough|
|Succeeded by||Don Foster|
|Born||Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III|
(1946-12-24) December 24, 1946 (age 71)
Selma, Alabama, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 4 in (163 cm)|
|Education||Huntingdon College (BA)|
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (JD)
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1973–1977|
|Unit||1184th United States Army Transportation Terminal Unit|
United States Army Reserve
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (born December 24, 1946) is an American politician and lawyer serving as the 84th and current Attorney General of the United States since 2017. Sessions was a United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017, serving as a member of the Republican Party.
From 1981 to 1993, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions was nominated in 1986 to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but was not confirmed. 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.
An early supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions was nominated by Trump for the post of U.S. Attorney General. He was confirmed on February 8, 2017, with a 52–47 vote in the Senate, and was sworn in on February 9, 2017.
In his Attorney General confirmation hearings, Sessions stated, while under oath, that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign and that he was unaware of any contacts 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 subsequently recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, while some Democratic lawmakers called for his resignation. In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, Carter Page declared that he had notified Sessions about his contacts with Kremlin officials in July 2016, contradicting Sessions' earlier denials.
As U.S. Attorney General, Sessions overturned a memo delivered by one of his predecessors, Eric Holder, that had sought to curb mass incarceration by avoiding mandatory sentencing, and has ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the maximum criminal charges possible. Sessions signed an order adopting civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize the property of those suspected but not charged with crimes. A staunch opponent of illegal immigration, Sessions has taken a hard-line on so-called sanctuary cities and has told reporters that cities failing to comply with federal immigration policy would lose federal funding. Sessions supports allowing the Department of Justice to prosecute providers of medical marijuana.
Education and early career
He was born in Selma, Alabama, on December 24, 1946, the son of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jr., and the former Abbie Powe. He was named after his father, who was named after his grandfather, who was named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, and P. G. T. Beauregard, the Confederate general who oversaw the bombardment of Fort Sumter, starting the American Civil War. 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. 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 B.A. degree 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 J.D. degree in 1973.
Sessions entered private practice in Russellville and later in Mobile. He also served in the Army Reserve in the 1970s, with the rank of captain.
Legal and political career
Sessions was an Assistant U.S. 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 12 years until Bill Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, asked for his resignation.
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. Sessions's office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.
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 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. 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.
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". 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." 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."
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. He also testified that "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks'." Sessions denied this. 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.
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. 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". 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."
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."
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 nomination was a mistake, because he had "since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian".
Alabama Attorney General (1995–1997)
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.
U.S. Senate (1997–2017)
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, 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. 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. 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).
In 2002, Sessions won reelection by defeating Democratic State Auditor Susan Parker. In 2008, Sessions defeated Democratic State SenatorVivian 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.
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. 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.
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 also on the short list to become Trump's running mate, a position that ultimately went to Mike Pence.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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–present)
President-elect Trump announced on November 18, 2016, that he would nominate Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States. 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, and 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 to 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". 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. Later that month, Saturday Night Live started parodying him, portrayed by Kate McKinnon.
On March 10, 2017, Sessions oversaw the firing of 46 United States Attorneys, leaving only his acting Deputy Dana Boente and nominated Deputy Rod Rosenstein 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 the 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 a total 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 President Trump's comments that it is a "horrible law" and "the world is laughing at us".
On May 9, 2017, Sessions delivered a memo to the President recommending 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.
In May 2017, Sessions offered to resign after receiving criticism from President Trump, who then did not accept the resignation.
On June 5, 2017, Sessions issued a memo preventing the Justice Department's future lawsuit settlements from including funding for third-parties, such as had been included 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 guidances had included warnings not to impose excessive fees on the poor, not to ship some guns across state lines, and to encourage accommodation of the developmentally disabled. In 2018, Sessions shuttered the Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice, which had focused on legal aid.
Russia controversy and recusal
See also: Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
During Sessions's Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on January 10, Senator Al Franken asked him 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". Franken was referring to a news report alleging that Russia had compromising material on Trump, and that Trump surrogates were in contact with the Russian government. Sessions replied that he was "not aware of any of those activities" and said "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."
A week later, in his responses to written questions presented by Senator Patrick Leahy, Sessions stated that he had not been "in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election".
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. News reports revealed that Sessions had spoken twice with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. The first communication took place after a Heritage Foundation event at the 2016 Republican National Convention attended by several ambassadors, including the Russian Ambassador Kislyak who spoke with Senator Sessions. The second interaction took place on September 8, 2016, when they met in Sessions's office; Sessions said they discussed Ukraine and terrorism. Sessions released a statement on March 1, 2017, saying "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." U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said: "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 ambassadors."
Democratic representatives asked Sessions to resign his post as United States Attorney General. Senator Lindsey Graham called for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Representative Nancy Pelosi stated that Sessions had "lied under oath" and called for his resignation. 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. Senator Franken commented that he believes that Sessions perjured himself in his confirmation hearing. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said in March 2017, "The kind of communication that Senator Franken was asking about, that other members of the committee asked about, he [Sessions] didn’t have."
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. That same day, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sessions's contact with the Russians had been investigated, but it was not clear whether the investigation was ongoing. At this time, Sessions said during a televised interview that the recusal was not an admission of any wrongdoing.
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in the first week of March 2017 found that 51% of respondents wanted Sessions to resign. 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.
On March 20, 2017, FBI DirectorJames Comey testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee that since July 2016, the FBI has been conducting a counter-intelligence investigation to assess the extent of Russia's interference into the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump associates played a role in Russia's efforts. In May 2017 the Justice Department reported that Sessions had failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials during the presidential campaign in 2016, when he applied for his security clearance. Sessions' staff had been advised by the FBI that meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities did not need to be disclosed.
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". It had been reported days before said testimony that President Trump had been furious at Sessions for his recusal from the investigation, blaming it for the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.
On June 13, 2017, Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee after canceling testimonies before the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. Sessions rejected reports he had met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during Trump's April 2016 speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., testifying that he did not remember any "brief interaction" he may have had with the ambassador. Accused of "stonewalling" by Senator Ron Wyden, Sessions discussed the executive privilege power, and said that he was refusing to answer questions about his conversations with Trump because "I am protecting the President's right to assert it if he chooses." He was being advised by his personal lawyer Charles J. Cooper.
In July 2017 The Washington Post reported that Kislyak, in communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence, had told his superiors in Moscow that his conversations with Sessions had concerned Trump's campaign as well as "Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues". Previously, after initially denying having met with Kisylak at all, Sessions had repeatedly asserted that in his meetings with the Russian ambassador he never discussed the campaign and only met with him in his capacity as a U.S. senator. If the report about the intercept is accurate it could contradict Sessions's sworn testimony. The Department of Justice responded by saying that Sessions stands by his testimony that he "never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election".
In March 2016, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors named George Papadopoulos suggested that he could use personal connections to arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Sessions rejected the proposed meeting, according to information provided to CNN by a person in attendance. This raised questions on the truthfulness of Sessions' testimony and whether Sessions committed perjury during his testimony. Furthermore, on the same day, testimony given by Carter Page to the House intelligence committee contradicted Sessions' previous statements by stating that he had told Sessions about plans to visit Russia during the campaign.
On April 3, 2017, Sessions announced that he was going to review consent decrees in which local law enforcement agencies had agreed to Department oversight. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar then denied Sessions's request to delay a new consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department.
On May 12, 2017, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the greatest criminal charges possible. The new guidelines rescinded a memo by Attorney General Eric Holder that had sought to reduce mass incarceration by avoiding mandatory sentencing.
On July 19, 2017, Sessions signed an order reviving federally adopted civil asset forfeiture, which allows local law enforcement to bypass state limitations on seizing the property of those suspected but not charged of crimes.
On December 22, 2017, Sessions rescinded guidelines intended to warn local courts against imposing excessive fines and fees on poor defendants.
Sessions has brought prominence to prosecutions of the MS-13 gang.
On March 27, 2017, Sessions told reporters that sanctuary cities failing to comply with policies of the Trump administration would lose federal funding, and cited the shooting of Kathryn Steinle as an example of an illegal immigrant committing a heinous crime.
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".
Sessions has attempted to block funding to sanctuary cities
Democrat Doug Jones was formally sworn in as the newest senator from Alabama on Wednesday, narrowing the Senate GOP’s already-slender majority and complicating the outlook for the Republican agenda ahead of the mid-term elections.
Jones, who defeated Republican Roy Moore in a contentious race this fall, became the newest member of the Senate alongside Tina Smith, who is replacing former Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota after he resigned following sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.
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Republicans now control a 51-49 majority, making it easier for Democrats to block President Donald Trump’s nominees and filibuster his legislative proposals. The one-seat pick-up also boosts the once-slim prospects of Democrats regaining the Senate majority in a year when they’re battling to retain seats in mostly conservative terrain.
“The voices of Jones and Smith will add to the diversity of energy of our caucus,” said an ebullient Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “I predict that both will become influential voices in this historic chamber.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also offered warm words to the newest senators, telling Jones in particular that he “will have big shoes to fill,” including those of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose departure from the Senate set off the special election.
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Some logistical issues will also have to be worked out with a narrower Republican margin in the Senate. For instance, McConnell and Schumer are still discussing whether the number of seats allotted to each party on committees will be adjusted to reflect the smaller GOP majority, aides said.
Who assumes Franken and ex-Sen. Luther Strange’s (R-Ala.) committee assignments won’t be settled until those ratios are decided. Franken in particular is vacating a coveted seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Supreme Court confirmations and gave Franken a major platform in interrogating controversial Trump nominees.
Three current or former vice presidents were on hand for Wednesday’s ceremonial event: Mike Pence, who swore in the new senators; Joe Biden, who accompanied Jones — a close friend — as he was formally installed as senator; and Walter Mondale, a former Minnesota senator who was alongside Smith.
Mondale joked with reporters about his meeting with Biden and Pence, quipping “They behaved.” And Biden in particular was clearly pleased to return to his old Senate stomping grounds, saying “Good to be back” while grinning to reporters during a photo op in the Old Senate Chamber.
More than 20 happy Senate Democrats were on hand to watch Jones and Smith get sworn in, although it was clear Jones was the star of the day. Only a handful of Republicans joined Pence and McConnell to watch the proceedings.
Jones waved to his wife in the gallery and touched his hand to heart after he officially joined what's known as the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. He was soon given a “member pin” that every senator receives.
Biden could be overheard loudly introducing Jones to Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley: “He’s a good guy.” Then Schumer joked to Biden while pointing to McConnell. “They need your help,” Schumer said. “They need you to negotiate.”
Schumer — who is scheduled to meet later Wednesday with McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a bid to work out a budget agreement — then lambasted Trump on the floor, especially his Tuesday night Twitter broadside against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"President Trump’s foreign policy by tweet is doing serious damage to the country," Schumer said on the floor. He accused Republicans who didn’t criticize Trump’s tweets of “complicity in the degradation of the presidency.”
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Jones sworn in, and Senate Democrats rejoice
By SEUNG MIN KIM and JOHN BRESNAHAN