President-elect Donald Trump announced his first two cabinet nominations Friday, as well as the selection of his national security adviser. The three appointments -- Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general, retired General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, and Representative Mike Pompeo for CIA director -- underscore the ultra-right, militaristic and anti-democratic character of the new Republican administration.
Trump has been encouraged by the response of the Democratic Party to the election to press forward with an extremely right-wing agenda, confident that he will encounter no significant political opposition. In the 10 days since the election, leading Democrats have, in succession, come out to wish Trump well and pledge to work with him in implementing key elements of his nationalist policy.
Trump's selection for "chief strategist" of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, which has ties to fascistic and white nationalist organizations, has been largely dropped by the Democrats and the media. Trump's government appointments, while drawn from the political and military establishment, are generally along the same line.
For attorney general, who supervises both the FBI and the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department, Trump has selected Senator Sessions, an extreme-right figure best known because his nomination as a federal judge was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate 30 years ago due his racist sympathies.
The foremost qualification for Sessions to be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States is his loyalty to Trump, whose vast business empire is mired in scandal and litigation, making his administration a ripe target for investigations into corruption and conflicts of interest.
Sessions was the first Republican senator to endorse Trump's campaign for the presidency, and the only one to offer support until Trump had effectively clinched the Republican nomination.
Born in Selma, Alabama in 1946, Sessions was 18 at the time of the famous civil rights march there, led by Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis. He graduated from Huntingdon College in 1969, and then the University of Alabama law school in 1973, soon joining the US attorney's office in Mobile. In 1981, Ronald Reagan named him US attorney for the southern district of Alabama, a position he held for 12 years.
During this period, Sessions carried out a notorious witch-hunting prosecution of three veteran civil rights workers, Albert and Evelyn Turner, and Spencer Pogue, charging them with vote fraud under a section of the Voting Rights Act, because of their efforts to register elderly rural black voters. The three were brought to trial, but a racially mixed jury unanimously acquitted them of all charges after deliberating only three hours. Four months after this legal farce, Reagan nominated Sessions to fill a vacant position on the US District Court.
Four co-workers of Sessions from the Justice Department testified to racist comments, ranging from favorable references to the Ku Klux Klan to calling a black attorney "boy" during an office discussion. Sessions admitted to describing both the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union as "un-American" and "communist." The political uproar was so strong that a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee ultimately refused to bring his nomination to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
While denied a judgeship, Sessions continued as US attorney and built a political career on the alleged snub, which became a cause celebre for southern racists. He ran for Alabama state attorney general in 1994 and won, then ran for a vacant US Senate seat in 1996, winning first the Republican primary and then the general election. He has been reelected three times, in his last campaign, in 2014, running unopposed, without even a token Democratic challenger.
Sessions has been one of the most consistently reactionary figures in the US Senate, particularly in relation to immigration. He once told the publication Roll Call that "nativist" was a perfectly acceptable description of his viewpoint. His hard-line opposition to both legal and illegal immigration was apparently the basis for his early enthusiasm for the Trump campaign.
More recently, he criticized the finding by FBI Director James Comey that Hillary Clinton had committed no crime in her use of a private email server while secretary of state. As attorney general, Sessions would be Comey's direct superior and could order him to reopen the Clinton investigation, or appoint a special prosecutor, as Trump has suggested.
If confirmed, Sessions would be the first Republican attorney general from the Deep South since the Southern segregationists moved en masse into the Republican Party after the civil rights reforms of the 1960s.
In the person of retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, Trump has put a former military intelligence officer in charge of coordinating foreign and military policy, a clear indication that a Trump administration will engage in even more ferocious military aggression than its Democratic predecessor.
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