From 1981 to 1993, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions was nominated in 1986 to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but was not confirmed. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994, and to the U.S. Senate in 1996, being re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014. During his time in Congress, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.
An early supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions was nominated by Trump for the post of U.S. Attorney General. He was confirmed on February 8, 2017, with a 52–47 vote in the Senate, and was sworn in on February 9, 2017.
In his Attorney General confirmation hearings, Sessions stated, while under oath, that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign and that he was unaware of any contacts between Trump campaign members and Russian officials. However, in March 2017, news reports revealed that Sessions had twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016. Sessions subsequently recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, while some Democratic lawmakers called for his resignation. In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, Carter Page declared that he had notified Sessions about his contacts with Kremlin officials in July 2016, contradicting Sessions's earlier denials.
As U.S. Attorney General, Sessions overturned a memo delivered by one of his predecessors, Eric Holder, that had sought to curb mass incarceration by avoiding mandatory sentencing, and has ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the maximum criminal charges possible. Sessions signed an order adopting civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize the property of those suspected but not charged with crimes. A staunch opponent of illegal immigration, Sessions has taken a hard-line on so-called sanctuary cities and has told reporters that cities failing to comply with federal immigration policy would lose federal funding. Sessions supports allowing the Department of Justice to prosecute providers of medical marijuana.
He was born in Selma, Alabama, on December 24, 1946, the son of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jr., and the former Abbie Powe. He was named after his father, who was named after his grandfather, who was named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, and P. G. T. Beauregard, the Confederate general who oversaw the bombardment of Fort Sumter, starting the American Civil War. His father owned a general store in Hybart, Alabama, and then a farm equipment dealership. Both of Sessions's parents were of primarily English ancestry, with some Scots-Irish. In 1964, Sessions became an Eagle Scout, and later, he earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for his many years of service.