President-elect Donald Trump is set to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as attorney general, Trump's transition team announced Friday morning, marking the first major cabinet nomination of the Trump administration.
"Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years," Trump said in a news release. "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."
His nomination must now be confirmed by the Senate, a process that could be fraught with scandal for the longtime senator and former Alabama attorney general.
Back in the 1980s, Sessions was not confirmed to a federal judgeship thanks to racist comments he reportedly made about African-Americans.
During confirmation hearings for the judicial nomination, a black employee who worked for Sessions testified that Sessions had joked about the Ku Klux Klan and called him "boy" — a racist term from the days of slavery and segregation.
With Trump already facing backlash for hiring Steve Bannon, who has made racist and anti-Semitic comments, another fight over racist statements from a cabinet nominee could make the outcry grow louder.
Sessions as attorney general would provide a sharp contrast from the heads of the Justice Department from President Barack Obama's administration.
Two attorneys general served under Obama — both of them black and both focused on civil rights and criminal justice reform.
Sessions, on the other hand, is opposed to reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.