Trump signals intent to keep hard-line promises with choices for senior national security posts – Washington Post
Trump announced that he plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as CIA director, while also choosing retired lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn as his White House national security adviser.
Trump’s selections were greeted with widespread applause by his core supporters and other Republicans. But Democrats and civil rights advocates denounced Sessions and Flynn for their controversial records, portending a potentially messy Senate confirmation process for Sessions, a 20-year veteran of the chamber.
The announcements came as Trump is weighing his choices for two of the Cabinet’s highest- profile posts: secretary of state and secretary of defense. He retreated Friday afternoon to his golf club at Bedminster, N.J., where he intends to spend the weekend with working sessions with his staff and visitors, including 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Sessions, 69, was Trump’s first endorser in the Senate and quickly became an influential policy adviser to the GOP nominee. He consistently defended Trump, including after an “Access Hollywood” video showed Trump bragging about grabbing women by their genitals. Sessions argued that Trump’s comments did not describe sexual assault.
Sessions has been dogged by accusations of racism throughout his career. In 1986, he was denied a federal judgeship after former colleagues testified before a Senate committee that he joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
The NAACP wrote in a Twitter message that Sessions’s nomination is “deeply troubling, and supports an old, ugly history where Civil Rights were not regarded as core American values.”
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said in a statement, “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.”
Senate Republican leaders rallied to Sessions’s defense and said they intended to approve his nomination to lead the Justice Department and serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
In a statement, Trump heaped praise on his nominee, celebrating Sessions’s “world-class legal mind” and noting his tenure in Alabama as U.S. attorney and state attorney general. “Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” Trump said.
Sessions said in a statement that there was “no greater honor” than to lead the Justice Department.
“I enthusiastically embrace President-elect Trump’s vision for ‘one America,’ and his commitment to equal justice under law,” Sessions said. “I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality.”
Because of Senate filibuster rule changes, Democrats’ options to derail Sessions’s nomination are limited. To be confirmed, Sessions would need a simple majority in the Republican-controlled chamber.
Unlike Sessions and Pompeo, Flynn is appointed and does not require Senate confirmation. Still, Trump’s pick of the three-star general and decorated intelligence officer has ignited controversy.
Flynn has made inflammatory and derogatory comments about Muslims, and he traveled to Moscow last year to dine alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT, the state-run propaganda television network. Flynn also supported Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
The president elect is also scheduled to meet Saturday with Romney, who was a fierce critic of Trump’s candidacy but who is being discussed as a potential candidate for secretary of state.
Other scheduled visitors on Saturday include former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, retired Marine general James Mattis, who is seen as a plausible defense secretary, and Robert L. Woodson Sr., who heads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Washington.
Woodson, who advises House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on poverty issues, said he is being considered for secretary of housing and urban development. If selected, Woodson, who is black, would add diversity to Trump’s team.
Meanwhile, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, is the leading candidate as Trump’s pick for Director of National Intelligence, according to a person familiar with the matter. The DNI oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Rogers took up the helm of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command in April 2014 in the wake of disclosures of widespread NSA collection activities that rocked public confidence in the agency. His term was set to expire in the spring, and his future was uncertain. He has had a rocky relationship with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Rogers’s consideration was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.