Donald Trump Begins Filling Cabinet with Offers to Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo to Fill Attorney General, CIA

Donald Trump taps Sessions as Attorney General, Pompeo for CIA director

epa05635773 U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) speaks with reporters at Trump Tower in New York on Nov. 17
epa05635773 U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) speaks with reporters at Trump Tower in New York on Nov. 17 PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Updated Nov. 18, 2016 9:10 a.m. ET

NEW YORK—President-elect Donald Trump began filling his Cabinet, offering Attorney General to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and director of the Central Intelligence Agency to Rep Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), according to people familiar with the decisions.

Mr. Trump’s transition team is expected to announce the appointments on Friday morning, along with the job of national security adviser, a White House post that is going to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Mr. Sessions is expected to accept the offer. On Monday, he told reporters that “I’d be honored to be considered” for a cabinet-level post, but that “Mr. Trump will have to make that decision.”

The Alabama Republican is a former U.S. attorney who was first elected to the Senate in 1996. He was one of Mr. Trump’s first supporters on Capitol Hill, as both Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump are considered outsiders from the mainstream GOP establishment.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Army officer and Harvard Law School graduate, was first elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the Tea Party movement.

He would likely bring a sharp change in tone to the CIA. Mr. Pompeo has been one of the harshest critics of the Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. and several western countries struck last year.

“I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” he said on Twitter on Thursday, speaking of the Iran deal.

As Mr. Trump’s popularity grew in the past year, he kept Mr. Sessions close, considering him a close adviser on a number of issues, particularly national security and immigration.

Several years ago, when a bipartisan group of senators tried to hammer out a compromise bill to overhaul immigration rules, Mr. Sessions became one of the strongest opponents of the package.

Mr. Sessions said the lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), were pursuing a bill that would allow “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. The bill passed the Senate, but the groundswell of opposition that Mr. Sessions helped establish prevented it from being considered in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Sessions has served in the Senate armed services, judiciary, and budget committees, among others.

His career hasn’t been without controversy. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Mr. Sessions for a federal court judgeship, but he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate amid accusations that he had made racist comments. Mr. Sessions has apologized for some of the comments he made at the time.

The selection of Mr. Sessions offers more clarity into how Mr. Trump is assembling his government.

Mr. Sessions is an early pick for Mr. Trump’s White House cabinet. Mr. Trump previously has announced that Reince Priebus will be chief of staff, Steve Bannon will be chief strategist, and Gen. Flynn will be national security adviser.

Messrs. Flynn and Sessions have been at times eschewed from Washington policy circles for controversial opinions and statements, but they have been very loyal to Mr. Trump throughout his campaign. The senior level staff he is putting together, at least at this point, appears to represent a group of people with whom he feels very comfortable and who have been loyal to him throughout his candidacy.

Messrs. Flynn, Sessions, and Bannon are also people who exemplify a rejection of the Washington status quo, as they are each unapologetic about their strongly held views.

Over a 20-year career, Mr. Sessions has been one of the Senate’s most conservative members. He was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump during the campaign, doing so during a surprise appearance at a February 2016 Trump rally in Madison, Ala.

“I told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign. This is a movement,” the senator told the crowd, donning one of Mr. Trump’s signature red hats with the “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Mr. Sessions has opposed illegal immigration and some forms of legal immigration, arguing that it has elbowed out U.S. workers for jobs.

On criminal justice issues, Mr. Sessions has been a law-and-order conservative. In recent years he has criticized President Barack Obama for commuting hundreds of prison sentences for drug offenders, as well as efforts by the Justice Department and U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce criminal sentencing guidelines for certain drug offenses.

A graduate of the University of Alabama law school, Mr. Sessions was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to serve as the U.S. attorney in Mobile, a post he filled for 12 years. Mr. Sessions ran for state attorney general in 1994 and won, serving for two years before his successful bid for the Senate.

His nomination for attorney general is likely to draw fire from civil rights groups. The Senate’s 1986 rejection of him to be a federal judge included criticism over his prosecution of three civil-rights workers for voter fraud, charges for which they were eventually acquitted.

The Alabama senator has been a Republican stalwart on the Senate Judiciary Committee, home to a long line of partisan battles over nominees to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts. He opposed all of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

Write to Michael C. Bender at and Damian Paletta at


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