Donald Trump's Pick of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General Receives Divided Response

Donald Trump's announcement of his pick for AG caused a worldwide stir.

ByABC News
November 18, 2016, 6:05 PM

— -- President-elect Donald Trump’s early morning pick of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, as attorney general caused a worldwide stir.

From marijuana industry leaders to members of Congress to nonprofits, reactions to the choice of Sessions have been mixed, with some praising his commitment to immigration prosecution and others questioning his commitment to human rights.


Republican Party leaders seemed optimistic overall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, tweeted his support today.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he was “honored” to have worked with Sessions and called Trump's pick of him as attorney general “great news for all of us who revere the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told ABC News' Malka Abramoff it was "an absolutely wonderful [pick.]" He added, "I give a standing ovation."


Democratic Party leaders were not as optimistic as Republican ones.

Democratic National Committee Interim Chair Donna Brazile released a statement today calling the choice of Sessions "deeply troubling."

“Over the course of his career, Senator Sessions used the power of the courts to discriminate against civil rights leaders, allegedly used racially charged language to disparage minorities, expressed support for the KKK and then tried to dismiss it as a joke, celebrated the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, opposed same-sex marriage, denied the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, voted against greater access to healthcare for veterans, blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, and voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act," she said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi worried that Sessions "would have dangerous new authority to attack civil rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of immigrants and people of color," she said in a statement.

Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, the country's first Latina senator, condemned Sessions' anti-immigrant policies.

Nonprofits and Advocacy Groups

The ACLU stated it would neither support nor oppose presidential or judicial nominations, but outlined Sessions’ records and statements. “Sen. Sessions has called the ACLU un-American and communist, assertions we flatly reject. His positions on LGBT rights, capital punishment, abortion rights, and presidential authority in times of war have been contested by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations,” the organization stated in a press release.

The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund took a similar stance, stating in a release, "Jeff Sessions has a decades-long record -- from his early days as a prosecutor to his present role as a Senator -- of opposing civil rights and equality. It is unimaginable that he could be entrusted to serve as the chief law enforcement officer for this nation's civil rights laws. This is yet another signal from the incoming administration that it is not only prepared to turn its back on equality, it is actively working to continue to sow division and undo decades of progress."

In a statement, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus B.K. Butterfield called Sessions’ civil rights record “appalling,” saying it “should disqualify him from Senate confirmation.”

Other Groups

Even marijuana industry leaders weighed in today, voicing concern about the history of Trump's pick advocating for the “failed war on drugs” and condemnation of the cannabis industry. CalConn Holdings President Aaron Herzberg called Sessions “the worst pick that Trump could have made for attorney general as it comes to marijuana issues” in a statement. He cited the Alabama senator’s remarks that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that its legalization causes a “disturbance.”

Green Lion Partners President Jeff Zucker shared the sentiment, but said that he is “hopeful that the industry’s advancement, especially in the most recent election, will lead to [Sessions’] being open-minded as to the incredible benefits cannabis is already having.”

Perhaps the most controversial of Sessions’ support declarations came from Former KKK Leader David Duke, who tweeted, “Bannon, Flynn, Sessions -- Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!” The Trump campaign has declined Duke's support.