What Does the Nomination of Jeff Sessions Mean for the Department of Justice

Posted by Christine Fritsch on January 18, 2017

Consultants

A two-day nomination hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee has now been completed for Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump’s pick for Attorney General at the Department of Justice. Who is Sessions though? What are his various beliefs and stances in the rule of the land and what will he bring to the agency and position known as the chief law enforcement officer for the country?

After obtaining a law degree from the University of Alabama, Sessions served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1973 through 1986, reaching the rank of Captain. According to the questionnaire the nominee submitted to the Senate, he served under the Department of Justice for 14 years. He was the U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District for 12 of those years and then the Attorney General for Alabama from 1995-1997. Since then, Jeff Sessions has been a Senator for Alabama and serves as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee as well as Chairman of the Strategic Forces Committee under the Committee on Armed Services.

In his opening statement on the first day of his nomination hearing that lasted over 10 hours, the senator stated that he views the Attorney General position as one that must enforce federal law equally for all Americans. In stating that he reveres the constitution and equal justice under law, Sessions affirmed his love for the Department of Justice and “holds dear its greatest ideal.”

Addressing the priorities he will hold as Attorney General, Sessions stated that of highest importance will be to “vigorously, effectively and immediately” prosecute those that violate border laws and go after drug cartels, human trafficking and gangs within the United States. Moreover, the nominee vowed support for law enforcement and stated that Congress must use the expertise and research from the Justice Department to help local efforts in their line of duty by increasing relations with their respective communities. Additionally, he has committed to improving the protection of the Department of Treasury from waste, fraud and abuse and preventing the loss of any dollar from the hands of corruption and false claims.

Of further importance, Jeff Sessions stated that the Justice Department has a lead role in cybersecurity and must have a clear plan in place for both the defense and offense of cyber-attacks in this country. When asked for the push on data privacy on an international scale, particularly in terms of the introduced International Communications Privacy Act to establish a legal standard for accessing electronic communications out of the of U.S., the nominee stated that he does not have a firm opinion on the matter yet but understands the individual’s right to privacy and at the same time the new technologies that can be afforded to securing the nation. Likewise, when asked about legislation allowing law enforcement to use technologies to process DNA samples in 90 minutes or less, the senator stated that he is largely in favor of rapid DNA legislation and analysis which will be made a highly important matter under the Department of Justice if he is confirmed. 

Overall, the nominee repeatedly described that his duties as Attorney General will be to carry out the law, setting aside any loyalties, personal opinions, etc. He was noted as adamantly stating that “our government is one of laws and not of men.” Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, has stated that the record for the nomination hearings will remain open until next Tuesday to allow for any further questions.

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