Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions pledges his support for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before speaking to supporters on Oct. 10 at a rally in Ambridge, Pa. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET
President-elect Donald Trump announced his selections today for three key posts: Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director.
The attorney general and CIA director nominees will need to be confirmed by the Senate. The national security adviser does not need Senate confirmation.
Sen. Jeff Sessions
The 69-year-old Republican senator, who has been offered the position of attorney general, was one of the first lawmakers to ally himself with the Trump campaign. He embraces a forceful anti-immigration platform and a tough approach to fighting crime.
Sessions “is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama,” Trump said in a statement from his transition team.
“I am humbled to have been asked by President-elect Trump to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” Sessions said. “My previous 15 years working in the Department of Justice were extraordinarily fulfilling. I love the Department, its people and its mission. I can think of no greater honor than to lead them.”
Sessions is a former longtime U.S. attorney in Alabama who went on to serve as the top Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Justice Department and FBI operations.
But earlier in his career, that same committee denied him a position as a lifetime-tenured federal judge after lawyers testified he had used racially insensitive language. Sessions apologized for saying he thought the KKK was OK “until I found out they smoked pot,” describing the episode as a joke.
His positions on social issues including same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and funding for stem-cell research are conservative.
As NPR’s Ailsa Chang reported earlier this year, Sessions had a controversial career as a prosecutor and allegations of racism have followed him for decades. He first rose to national attention when he prosecuted three black civil rights workers for voter fraud; a defense lawyer called it “voter persecution,” and the jury returned no convictions.
The president of the NAACP called Sessions’ appointment “troubling,” while a legislative counsel at the ACLU called him “the senator with probably the most anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-child record in the Senate.”
Former Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner, a Republican from Sessions’ hometown of Mobile, said President-elect Trump “has supreme confidence in Sen. Sessions’ judgment, his wisdom, his character and his loyalty.”
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee that will review Sessions’ nomination, said in a statement:
“Senator Sessions has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for many years so he’s well aware of the thorough vetting he’s about to receive. And while many of us have worked with Senator Sessions closely and know him to be a staunch advocate for his beliefs, the process will remain the same: a fair and complete review of the nominee. While Senator Sessions and I differ on a great many issues, I am committed to a full and fair process.”
The current attorney general is Loretta Lynch, the first black woman in that position (as a child, she attended civil rights rallies in the South with her parents) and the former U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York.
The brazen retired Army lieutenant general has been offered the position of national security adviser.
“General Flynn is one of the country’s foremost experts on military and intelligence matters and he will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration,” Trump said in the transition team statement.
Flynn said he was “deeply humbled and honored to accept the position as National Security Advisor to serve both our country and our nation’s next President, Donald J. Trump.”
As NPR’s Tom Bowman reports on our Parallels blog, Flynn was pushed out of a key post in 2014:
“Within military circles, Flynn was a highly respected — though at times controversial — career intelligence officer. He worked his way up the ranks, including stints as the top intelligence officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Gen. Stanley McChrystal‘s top aide in Afghanistan. …
“Flynn, by then a three-star general, went on to run the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s military-centered spy service. But the workforce there complained he was trying to push through too many changes, including sending more employees overseas.
“Flynn argued that he was trying to get the bureaucracy to be more efficient, to do more. Critics said he couldn’t run a large bureaucracy. He was forced out in 2014 after less than two years in the job.”
Flynn, too, was an early Trump supporter.
During the Republican National Convention this summer, he joined in the chants of “Lock her up,” in reference to Hillary Clinton. “It was a strange position for someone who was a career military officer and a registered Democrat from Rhode Island,” Tom says.
Flynn has called President Obama “a liar” and has troubled some former colleagues with his partisan political work, Tom reports.
In an interview with NPR to discuss his book The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, Flynn said he thought it was not workable to put a blanket immigration ban on “any segment of the population.”
The current national security adviser is Susan Rice, the former U.N. ambassador who was sharply criticized by congressional Republicans for making what she later acknowledged were “incorrect” statements after the Benghazi attack.
Rep. Mike Pompeo
Pompeo, a third-term Republican congressman from Kansas, has been offered the post of CIA director.
“I am honored to have been given this opportunity to serve and to work alongside President-elect Donald J. Trump to keep America safe. I also look forward to working with America’s intelligence warriors, who do so much to protect Americans each and every day,” Pompeo said.
According to his congressional biography, he graduated from West Point and served as a cavalry officer. He attended Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, before entering business as an executive in aerospace manufacturing and the oil industry.
He served on the Energy and Commerce committee as well as the House Intelligence Committee, and was a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The current CIA director is John Brennan, who joined the CIA in 1980 and was a station chief in Saudi Arabia and the chief of the national counterterrorism center.