Jeff Sessions approved as US Attorney General by Senate Judiciary committee

One of Donald Trump’s most controversial picks for cabinet was voted in 11 to 9

Rachael Revesz
New York
Wednesday 01 February 2017 18:27 GMT
Mr Sessions said accusations of racism were 'damnably false charges'
Mr Sessions said accusations of racism were 'damnably false charges' (Getty)

Nine senators said "no", but 11 said "yes" - Donald Trump’s most controversial pick, Jeff Sessions, has been approved for attorney general.

The Alabama Republican, whose career has been dogged by accusations of racism and bigotry, has passed the first hurdle to the top job and must now be confirmed by the full senate.

The senate judiciary committee voted 11 to nine in favour of Mr Sessions the day after Democrats successfully delayed the vote.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer invoked the rarely-used “two hour rule” as he said more questions needed to be answered.

Mr Sessions' critics say a vote for him is also a vote for the Muslim ban, an executive order signed last week which bars visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days, as he was a key architect of the order.

In the 1980s, Mr Sessions was deemed to be too racist to serve as a federal judge.

In his senate confirmation hearing this year, Mr Sessions said accusations of racism were "damnably false charges" and denied having ever called civil rights organisations "un-American".

Cory Booker testifies that Jeff Sessions is not qualified to protect the rights of U.S. citizens

He was also accused of joking that his biggest problem with the Ku Klux Klan was that they "smoked pot" - he is also strongly anti-drugs, which is a threat to recently passed marijuana legislation in several states.

One of his key pieces of evidence to defend himself against accusations of racism was that he claimed he had filed several lawsuits to desegregate schools. But when he was grilled by Democratic senator Al Franken on these cases, he admitted he had not led the cases, but his name was on the paperwork. By the time he filed these cases, most schools in the state were already desegregated.

A video clip from 2015 shows that Mr Sessions pushed former acting attorney general Sally Yates to confirm she would take decisions independent of what former President Barack Obama wanted to do.

Jeff Sessions presses Sally Yates on her need for independence from the White House

She insisted she would stick to the law. Two years later, when he refused to defend Mr Trump's executive order to ban Muslim refugees, she was dismissed.

Her final replacement will be Mr Sessions.

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