19 Nov 2016

Trump gives Flynn, Sessions and Pompeo the nod

9:44 am on 19 November 2016

US President-elect Donald Trump has picked three conservative loyalists to lead his national security and law enforcement teams.

Donald Trump, October 2016.

Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Three choices announced on Friday by Mr Trump's transition team come as the Republican president-elect works to fill key positions in his administration, which will take over from incumbent President Barack Obama on 20 January.

Mr Trump on Friday picked his staunch supporter senator Jeff Sessions, whose tough and sometimes inflammatory statements on immigration have reflected his own, to be his attorney general.

The choice was applauded by the top Republican in the Senate but drew criticism from civil rights activists.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, who has championed Mr Trump's promises to take a more aggressive approach to terrorism, was chosen as his national security adviser.

Mr Trump chose Representative Mike Pompeo, a vocal critic of the Obama administration's security policy, as director of the Central Intelligence Angency.

Mr Sessions and Mr Pompeo seem likely to be confirmed by the Senate despite heavy resistance from Democrats. Republicans will control a majority, with at least 51 seats in the 100-seat chamber, when Congress reconvenes in January. Lt Gen Flynn's post will not need Senate confirmation.

Donald Trump has chosen Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general.

Donald Trump has chosen Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Photo: AFP

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general acts as the country's chief law enforcement officer and head of the Justice Department.

Mr Sessions, 69, is a former Alabama attorney general and a US attorney, and has been in the Senate for 19 years.

One of the earliest Republican lawmakers to support Trump's White House candidacy, he opposed any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and was an enthusiastic backer of Trump's campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

He also argued to curb legal immigration on the grounds it drives down wages for US workers.

Allegations that he made racist remarks led the Senate to deny his confirmation as a federal judge in 1986. The chamber's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said he would want Mr Sessions to answer "tough questions" about his civil rights positions.

Civil rights groups slammed Mr Sessions as a poor choice to head a department charged with protecting voting rights and running immigration courts.

"How can we trust someone in that role who has demonstrated he thinks all forms of immigration are bad for America?" said Beth Werlin, head of the American Immigration Council.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he strongly supported Mr Sessions for the attorney general role, calling him "principled, forthright, and hardworking".

Mr Sessions has been one of Trump's most enthusiastic backers on Capitol Hill and the president-elect hired several of Mr Sessions' staffers, including policy chief Stephen Miller and Rick Dearborn, who has a top job managing the transition.

Retired US Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn

Retired US Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn Photo: AFP

Mike Flynn

Lt Gen Flynn, one of Mr Trump's closest advisers, was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, a move he has attributed to his outspoken views about fighting Islamist militancy.

Other officials who worked with Lt Gen Flynn cited his lack of management skills and leadership style as reasons for his firing.

An army intelligence veteran for three decades, he was assistant director of national intelligence under Mr Obama.

He views the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a strategic blunder and has refused to condemn Mr Trump's support for the renewed use of waterboarding.

This is an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, is widely considered torture, and was banned by Mr Obama.

Mike Pompeo seems likely to lead the CIA under Donald Trump's administration.

Mike Pompeo seems likely to lead the CIA under Donald Trump's administration. Photo: AFP

Mike Pompeo

Mr Pompeo, 52, a third-term Republican congressman and former US Army officer who founded an aerospace company was a surprise pick to lead the CIA.

A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Mr Pompeo has called for a revival and expansion of a now-defunct domestic spying program to include "financial and lifestyle information" as well as phone records.

He has said that Edward Snowden, a former government contractor who uncovered the spying program and who now lives in Russia, should get the death penalty if he is ever tried and convicted.

Mr Pompeo has been one of the most aggressive critics of the Obama administration's handling of a 2012 attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.

Neverthless, Democrats who have worked with him joined Republicans in describing Mr Pompeo as knowledgeable and hard working.

"While we have had our share of strong differences - principally on the politicisation of the tragedy in Benghazi - I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage," Intelligence Committee top Democrat Adam Schiff said.

- Reuters

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