World

Sessions is new attorney general

Debate over senator had grown increasingly acrimonious

WASHINGTON The US Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as attorney general (AG) on Wednesday, despite fierce debate about his civil rights record and Democratic Party concern over whether he serves as the nation's top law enforcement officer independent of President Donald Trump.

Lawmakers green-lighted the senator as the 84th US attorney general on a mostly party-line vote of 52 to 47, with one Democrat, Mr Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voting with the Republican majority.

When the tally was announced, many senators broke into extended applause for their colleague.

Mr Trump has harangued Democrats for slow-walking his nominees, blasting their unprecedented obstruction as a "disgrace".

He appeared particularly angered by the delay on Mr Sessions, who as attorney general would wield enormous power regarding the administration of justice, including the issue of voting rights.

"Congratulations to our new attorney general," Mr Trump tweeted shortly after the vote.

Mr Sessions, widely seen as an inspiration for Mr Trump's anti-immigration policies, is just the sixth of 15 cabinet members to be confirmed, in addition to the cabinet-rank positions of CIA director and US ambassador to the United Nations.

He takes charge of the Justice Department and its 113,000 employees amid a swirling legal debate over Mr Trump's most controversial White House action to date, an executive order temporarily blocking all refugee arrivals and immigration from seven mainly Muslim countries.

With Mr Trump using Twitter to bully a judge who rolled back the ban, and an appeals court weighing whether to reinstate it, debate over Mr Sessions grew increasingly acrimonious and personal.

On Tuesday night, it turned ugly. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sternly rebuked Democrat Elizabeth Warren for reading a letter written by the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr that criticised Mr Sessions's civil rights record.

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," Mr McConnell said of Ms Warren's violation of the chamber's rules of decorum.

Ms Warren, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, later said: "I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory and racist comments that have no place in our justice system." - AFP

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