Jeff Sessions named attorney general as Trump fills key roles

Controversial former general Michael Flynn installed as national security adviser

Three new Trump appointments: US Representative from Kansas Mike Pompeo, retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn, and Senator Jeff Sessions. Composite: AFP/Getty Images

Three new Trump appointments: US Representative from Kansas Mike Pompeo, retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn, and Senator Jeff Sessions. Composite: AFP/Getty Images

 

President-elect Donald Trump has announced the nomination of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as US attorney general and Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the selection of retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser.

“It is an honour to nominate US senator Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general of the United States, ” Mr Trump said in a release issued by the transition team. “Jeff has been a highly respected member of the US Senate for 20 years. He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and US attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

Mr Sessions declared in the same release that he is “humbled to have been asked” to serve in the role as the head of the justice department. “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 honour than to lead them. With the support of my Senate colleagues, I will give all my strength to advance the department’s highest ideals. I enthusiastically embrace president-elect Trump’s vision for ‘one America’, and his commitment to equal justice under law. I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality.”

In choosing Mr Sessions as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr Trump awards a loyalist whose hard-line and at times inflammatory statements on immigration were similar to his own. Mr Sessions opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was an enthusiastic backer of Mr Trump’s promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Mr Pompeo, the new CIA director, who represents Kansas’s fourth congressional district, currently serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Speaking to pool reporters in Trump Tower, vice president-elect Mike Pence said that “the president-elect is a man of action and we’ve got a great number of men and women with great qualifications look forward to serving in this administration and I am just humbled to be a part of it. Our agency teams arrived in Washington DC this morning and I am very confident it will be a smooth transition that will serve to lead this country forward and make America great again.”

‘Radical Islamic terrorism’

Mr Flynn said he was “deeply humbled and honoured to accept the position as national security adviser to serve both our country and our nation’s next president”.

Mr Flynn (57) is a former military intelligence chief who has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration. He served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and has advised Mr Trump on national security issues for months. As national security adviser, he will work in the White House shaping foreign and military policy and have frequent access to a president with no national security experience.

Mr Flynn broke from other national security experts during the US election campaign who denounced Mr Trump, joining the then-candidate at rallies and leading chants against Hillary Clinton, including those that called for her to be locked up.

In a fiery address at the Republican National Convention, Mr Flynn emphasised his view that the threat posed by the Islamic State group required a more aggressive US military, as well as his belief that Washington should work more closely with Moscow.

A retired three-star army general, Mr Flynn ran the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), one of the highest positions a military intelligence officer can attain, between 2012 and 2014. But clashes with top Obama administration officials led to his departure.

James Clapper, the CIA director who announced his resignation on Thursday, played a leading role in Mr Flynn’s departure.

A controversial figure, Mr Flynn has been criticised for regularly appearing on RT, the Russian state-owned television station, and once attended an RT gala, sitting two seats from Russian president Vladimir Putin. He later said his speaker’s bureau had arranged the trip and that he saw no distinction between RT and TV news organisations like CNN.

The post does not require Senate confirmation.

Mr Flynn wrote in his 2016 book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, that he was “not a devotee of so-called political correctness”.

In February, the general posted on Twitter, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” Then, in July, he retweeted an antisemitic post mocking the Clinton campaign’s blaming of Russian hackers for leaked emails: “CNN implicated. ‘The USSR is to blame!’ Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” Mr Flynn later deleted his retweet and apologised, saying it was a mistake; the tweet about Muslims has not been deleted.

Criticism

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in a statement on Thursday night that he was “deeply concerned about [Flynn’s] views on Russia” because of their “fondness for the autocratic and belligerent Kremlin”. He also pointed to the general’s “inflammatory remarks regarding Islam”, and his “uncritical acceptance of the Turkish crackdown on dissent”.

Mr Schiff also said he thought the best choice for national security adviser would be someone “steady and thoughtful” who could “help offset the potentially impulsive nature of the next president”.

On Thursday, diplomatic sources said that David Petraeus – the former US army general and CIA director who was prosecuted for mishandling classified information – had entered the race to become Donald Trump’s secretary of state.

Gen Petraeus resigned in November 2012 after the FBI discovered he had had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and had shared classified information with her. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanoor charge for mishandling the information.

People who have seen him recently say he is anxious to return to public life and has privately refused to rule out serving in a Trump administration.

Gen Petraeus, who was also a US commander in Afghanistan and Iraq, has made flattering remarks about Mr Trump since the election. “He’s right to criticise Washington over its partisanship and its inability to forge compromises,” he told the German cable news channel Deutsche Welle this week. “He’s a dealmaker. Let’s see if he can make some deals in Washington.”

Guardian service