WASHINGTON - President-elect Donald Trump announced three selections for key administration jobs Friday, setting the stage for a sharp shift from President Barack Obama’s policies.
Trump, a Republican, named U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to become attorney general, former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, and conservative Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to head the CIA. All three have been fierce critics of President Obama’s policies.
The president-elect also will meet Saturday with Mitt Romney — the GOP’s 2012 presidential candidate and one of the party’s most vocal opponents of Trump in 2016. Trump aides wouldn’t address talk that the former Massachusetts governor could be appointed secretary of state, saying only that the meeting was to “hear his ideas and his thoughts.”
In his first selections to build an administration, Trump is rewarding Sessions and Flynn, two of his earliest loyalists in his campaign. Sessions was the first senator to endorse the New York real-estate mogul. The president-elect said it was an “honor” to nominate Sessions as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.
“He 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.
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.”
Even with Republicans in control of the Senate, Sessions could face obstacles. He withdrew from consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986 after being accused of making racist comments while serving as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.
Former colleagues said that Sessions had called the NAACP and other civil rights groups “un-American” and said the Ku Klux Klan was OK “until I found out they smoked pot” — a remark he later said was a joke. In the end, the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee denied Sessions’ nomination.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller expressed confidence that Sessions would be approved by the U.S. Senate this time and, in response to a reporter’s questions about the 1986 nomination, cited a number of actions he thought bolster’s the senator’s record: voting for an extension of the Civil Rights Act, filing desegregation lawsuits while serving as Alabama attorney general, sponsoring legislation to award Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold Medal.
“So we feel very confident Senator Sessions has the background and the support to receive confirmation,” Miller said in a conference call.
Sessions, a proponent of tough immigration enforcement policies, has tangled with the past two Democratic-appointed attorneys general on whether terrorism suspects deserve the protections of American civilian courts and on the planned closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
Pompeo is a conservative Republican and a strong critic of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. A three-term congressman, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and from Harvard Law School.
Flynn was a critic of Obama’s military and foreign policy long before he began advising Trump on national security issues during the presidential campaign. As national security adviser, Flynn would work in the West Wing and have frequent access to the new president.
The 57-year-old has been outspoken in his warnings about the dangers of Islamist groups, saying the U.S. needs to “discredit” radical Islam. He’s called Islam a “political ideology” and said it “definitely hides behind being a religion.”
Flynn, like Trump, has worried some national security experts with his warmth toward Russia. Last year, Flynn traveled to Moscow to join Russian President Vladimir Putin at a celebration for RT, a television channel funded by the Russian government. Flynn said he had been paid for taking part in the event and brushed aside concerns that he was aiding a Russian propaganda effort.
With The Associated Press