NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is moving ahead with filling key posts in his administration, picking Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for the job of attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA.
In making the announcement Friday morning, Trump called Sessions “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,” Trump said in a statement. “Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
Sessions was the first U.S. senator to back Trump during the campaign and is an architect of Trump’s immigration, counterterrorism and trade policies.
Sessions had been floated for both attorney general and secretary of defense. In a statement, Sessions said he was “humbled” to have been asked by the president-elect to serve as attorney general.
“I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality,” he said.
Sessions has been a leading proponent of tough immigration-enforcement policies. He’s tangled with the past two Democratic-appointed attorneys general on whether terrorism suspects deserve the protections of American civilian courts and on the planned closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
He’s also been protective of the attorney general’s right to refuse a legally unsound directive from the president.
“Jeff Sessions is a good friend, and I think he will make an excellent attorney general,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Pompeo was offered the job Friday morning and accepted, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett reported.
In his statement, Trump said Pompeo “will be a brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community to ensure the safety of Americans and our allies.”
Pompeo said he was “honored” to be given the opportunity to serve and work alongside Trump.
“I also look forward to working with America’s intelligence warriors, who do so much to protect Americans each and every day,” he said in a statement.
Pompeo is a conservative Republican and a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees U.S. intelligence gathering efforts. In 2014, he was appointed to the House Select Benghazi Committee to probe the 2011 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
The announcements came on the heels of Trump’s decision to tap former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
Trump called Flynn “one of the country’s foremost experts on military and intelligence matters” and said “he will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration.”
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation before assuming their designated roles; Flynn would not.
There could be some hurdles for Sessions, even with Republicans in control of the chamber. When Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge in 1986, he was dogged by racist comments he was accused of making while serving as U.S. attorney in Alabama.
Sessions adamantly denied the allegations but later withdrew from consideration, though he went on to become state attorney general and won election to the Senate in 1996.
Flynn also comes with some controversy. He once referred to Islam as “a cancer,” and he tweeted in February that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
The president-elect, meanwhile, left Trump Tower on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course, where he’s expected to continue making decisions about his cabinet, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
Trump is a foreign policy novice and his early moves on national security are being closely watched both in the U.S. and overseas. He’s said to be considering a range of officials with varying degrees of experience to lead the State Department and Pentagon.
Trump has also consulted with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sat down with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.
The chairman of the transition, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, said he’s pleased with the process so far, CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“We’ve got a great number of men and women of great qualifications come forward to serve this new administration,” Pence said.
In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Trump planned to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lambasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud” in a stinging speech in March. Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Romney as a “loser.”
The two began mending fences after Trump’s victory when Romney called with congratulations. According to CBS News, they are scheduled to meet Saturday.
A source involved in the transition described the meeting as one to “seek counsel,” CBS News reported. The men are also expected to discuss potential cabinet positions, two sources confirmed to CBS News.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)