On 18 November 2016, citing a source on Donald Trump's transition team, the New York Times reported that Sen. Jeff Sessions has been selected to fill Loretta Lynch's attorney general slot at the start of the new administration in January 2017:
President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama who became a close adviser after endorsing him early in his campaign, to be the attorney general of the United States, according to officials close to the transition.
Mr. Sessions was also under consideration for secretary of defense, creating debate within the Trump transition team over which job he should fill.
The paper highlighted potential criticism Sessions might face:
While Mr. Sessions is well liked in the Senate, his record as United States attorney in Alabama in the 1980s is very likely to become an issue for Democrats and civil rights groups expected to give it close scrutiny.
While serving as a United States prosecutor in Alabama, Mr. Sessions was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. But his nomination was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of racially charged comments and actions. At that time, he was one of two judicial nominees whose selections were halted by the panel in nearly 50 years.
In testimony before the committee, former colleagues said that Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” An African-American federal prosecutor then, Thomas H. Figures, said Mr. Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and testified that Mr. Sessions said the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Mr. Sessions dismissed that remark as a joke.
Mr. Sessions was also accused of speaking disparagingly of the Voting Rights Act and the stringent oversight it placed on Southern states.
Social media responded quickly. Republican strategist Ana Navarro tweeted:
Jeff Sessions, considered too racist to be a judge in 80's, is Trump's AG. Best to go back to sleep, America. I'll wake u up when it's over.
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) November 18, 2016
After reports began circulating, Donald Trump tweeted:
President-elect Trump announces selections for Attorney General, National Security Advisor, CIA Director. More here: https://t.co/VnDiriU90r
— Transition 2017 (@transition2017) November 18, 2016
A statement published to Trump's greatagain.gov web site included comment from both Trump and Sessions:
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions has dedicated his life to public service. He has a distinguished legal career and has served as both the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and Alabama Attorney General prior to his service in the U.S. Senate. He has been one of President-elect Trump’s trusted advisors on the campaign and will now continue his service as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
“It is an honor to nominate U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” said President-elect Trump. “Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years. He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
"I am humbled to have been asked by President-elect Trump to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” said U.S. Senator Sessions. “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. 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."