The presidency of Donald Trump has been a dramatic one so far. When all is said and done, and scribes write stories about his tenure, one name will feature prominently. The curious case of how Jeff Sessions went from loyal Trump supporter to being despised by the same person is one that bemuses most people.
He went from being handpicked by Trump for the Attorney-General position to having his resignation requested by Trump himself. He is perhaps the most visible example of what happens if you went against the 45th US President.
Sessions’ tenure as Attorney-General was an unpalatable experience for him. During the Russian probe, he found himself in a difficult position between doing the President’s bidding and obeying Congress’s orders to abstain. It eventually cost him his job and, more importantly, favor in the sight of the President, ultimately bringing his storied career to a disappointing end.
Jeff Sessions Began His Public Career at State Level
US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (1981-1993)
Jeff Sessions was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan to become US Attorney for Southern District of Alabama. After the Senate confirmed the nomination, he went on to hold this position for 12 years. He eventually resigned in 1993 after Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was elected President.
Failed Nomination as United States District Judge (1986)
After five years as a US attorney, Jeff Sessions earned another nomination from President Ronald Reagan. This time around, the President nominated him to the position of the district judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.
The American Bar Association (ABA) approved his nomination, but his confirmation hearing did not see the same fate. A series of negative testimonies, spearheaded by Thomas Figures and J. Gerald Herbert, ensured that his candidacy failed.
The confirmation committee eventually voted against sending his nomination to the Senate. He became only the second nominee in 48 years to have his nomination killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Alabama Attorney-General (1995-1997)
In November 1994, Jeff Sessions was elected Attorney-General of Alabama. He unseated Jimmy Evans, a Democrat, after accruing 57% of total votes. He held this position for two years. During his short period in the position, he defended the state in two landmark cases.
The first was a suit regarding the state’s funding of public schools that disproportionately favored rich schools. The second was a suit by the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance to keep the state legislature from denying funding to student organizations that advocated on behalf of homosexuality at public universities. Jeff Sessions and the State lost both suits after a judge ruled them unconstitutional.
US Senate (199 –2017)
Jeff Sessions spent 20 years as a US Senator. In 1996, he won the Republican primaries for US Senate. He then went one step further, defeating Democrat Roger Bedford 53%-46% in the November general election.
Sessions subsequently won re-election in 2002, 2008, and 2014 vs. democrats Susan Parker, Vivian Davis Figures, and Victor Sanchez Williams, respectively. He vacated his position as Senator to take up his new role as Attorney-General of the United States in 2017.
Jeff Sessions Had a Contentious Appointment as Attorney-General
On November 18, 2016, President Donald Trump announced that he would be nominating Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney-General of the United States. He said Sessions’ loyal support during his presidential campaign inspired the nomination. However, the nomination received mixed responses from both sides of the political aisle.
On January 10, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing began and was subsequently interrupted by protesters. An 11-9 party-line vote confirmed his nomination by the committee. A confirmation vote by the Senate was all that was left. On February 8, 2017, Sessions officially became Attorney-General after a 52-47 vote decision went his way.
Tenure as Attorney-General
As Attorney-General, Sessions oversaw the firing of 46 US attorneys who had ties to Barack Obama, in a move ordered by President Donald Trump. He also disbanded the National Commission on Forensic Science and ended the department’s review of forensic accuracy on closed cases.
On May 9, 2017, AG Jeff Sessions sent a memo to President Trump recommending the sacking of then FBI director, James Comey. Trump subsequently heeded the memo and fired Comey on the same day. As Attorney-General, Sessions received accusations of making dramatic and controversial changes that reflected his nationalistic beliefs and ideologies.
Sour Relationship with Trump and Subsequent Resignation
During the investigation of the 2016 Presidential elections and possible Russian interference, Donald Trump was confident he had a loyal employee overseeing matters. He was confident that his nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney-General stood him in good stead.
When Jeff Sessions, on advice from Justice Department lawyers, decided to abstain from the investigation, it came as a shock to Trump. A few days after this announcement, Sessions met with Trump, who berated him for his decision and urged him to change his mind. Sessions refused to budge and stood by his decision.
Trump allegedly attempted to change his mind on a few more occasions and met with the same stance. He viewed this decision as a betrayal and the loss of a supposedly loyal party. For the rest of Sessions’ tenure, he faced multiple attacks from Trump via twitter and public comments.
Trump opined that he regretted his decision to nominate Sessions. While these attacks did not let up, Jeff Sessions rarely issued any reply to them.
After reportedly attempting to resign a few times in the past, Jeff Sessions finally walked away from the job. On November 7, 2018, he submitted a letter of resignation to Chief of Staff, John Kelly at the behest of Trump. This concluded the tenure of Jeff Sessions as Attorney-General of the United States.
A Failed Return to Senate Seat and Possible End of his Public Career
After resigning as Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions began considering a candidacy for his old senate seat. On November 7, 2019, exactly a year after resigning, Sessions announced his candidacy and intentions to compete in the ultra-competitive Republican primaries.
He lost the primaries to the former head football coach at Auburn University, Tommy Tuberville, on July 15, 2020. Tommy Tuberville received an endorsement from President Trump, even though Trump had been urged to distance himself from the elections.
With the loss of the election, public opinion suggests Jeff Sessions might call time on his public career. However, his strained relationship with President Donald Trump is the primary obstacle to a return to the national stage. As a result, some believe there is a path back to the spotlight at the end of Trump’s tenure.
His Name Was Inspired By The President of the Confederacy
Jeff Sessions was born on December 24, 1946, to store owner, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions II and his wife, Abbie Powe. His given name ‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’ was inspired by Jefferson Davis, a US Senator and President of the Confederate States of America. P.G.T Beauregard, a confederate general, was also an inspiration behind it.
Although he was born in Selma, Alabama, Sessions grew up in Hybart. At the age of 18, he became an eagle scout and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. After graduating from Wilcox County High School in Camden, he proceeded to Huntingdon in Montgomery.
He bagged a Bachelor of Arts degree from the college in 1969. While there, he was an active member of the Young Republicans, eventually becoming a student body president. His law journey began when he attended the University of Alabama Law School and received a Juris Doctorate in 1973.
After finishing law school, he entered private practice, first in Russellville, then Mobile, Alabama. He also had a thirteen-year career as an army reserve, which lasted from 1973 till 1986. He eventually attained the rank of Captain.
Jeff Sessions Met His Wife in College
Jeff Sessions is married to Mary Blackshear, who hails from Gadsden, Alabama. The couple met as students in Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. They both graduated in the 1969 set and were also both actively involved in the Young Republicans club.
Mary Blackshear belonged to a variety of clubs and boards while in college. These include Huntingdon Christian Council, Westminster Fellowship, The International Club, and Social Standards Board. She also belonged to a sorority sister club named Sigma Sigma Sigma.
She eventually became a teacher and taught at Tuscaloosa, Reform, and Montgomery schools. Shortly after graduating from college in 1969, the couple decided to get married. They have remained married to date, and their union spans over 51 years.
They Are Parents to Three Children and Ten Grandchildren
Together, the former Attorney General and his wife have three children: Mary Abigail Reinhardt, Ruth Sessions Walk, and Sam Sessions. Their three children have, in turn, produced ten grandchildren with seven granddaughters – Jane Ritchie, Alexa, Gracie, Sophia, Hannah, Joanna, and Phoebe, along with three grandsons – Jim Beau, Lewis, and Nicholas.
Their daughter, Ruth Sessions Walk, is married to John Walk, a man of Asian descent. Ruth’s daughter was with her grandfather at his confirmation hearing in January 2017 when he faced accusations that he used her to dispel rumors that he is racist.
It prompted Ruth Sessions to write a letter defending her father from media attack and perceived lies. According to her, she was proud to be her father’s daughter.
Their other daughter, Mary Abigail Reinhardt, is married to Commander Paul Reinhardt of the US Navy. In 2014, he was named the commander of the USS Alabama, an Ohio-class ballistic submarine. Their only son, Sam Sessions, is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church as a result of his marriage. He and his wife, Angela, have four children.