President Donald Trump’s nomination for attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has been confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 52 to 47.
Jeff Sessions’ confirmation follows a series of divisive hearings during which Democrats attacked his record on civil rights.
Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced after recalling historic allegations of racism against Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions’ nomination was among Donald Trump’s most controversial.
Voting largely followed party lines, with just one Democratic senator – Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voting for Jeff Sessions.
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Jeff Sessions’ Republican colleagues in the chamber applauded him as their majority carried him over the line. He will now take charge of the justice department and its 113,000 employees, including 93 US attorneys.
Addressing the chamber after the vote, Jeff Sessions said: “There is no greater honor than to represent the people of Alabama in the greatest deliberative body in the world.
“I appreciate the full debate we’ve had and thank those afterwards who found sufficient confidence to cast their vote to confirm me as the next attorney general.
“I fully understand the august responsibility of this office.”
However, Jeff Sessions added that “denigrating people who don’t agree with us is not good for our politics”.
During debates ahead of the vote, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic senators recalled criticism of Jeff Sessions by Martin Luther King’s widow, who opposed his nomination as a federal judge in 1986, alleging he had intimidated black voters.
That nomination was rejected by a US Senate panel amid concerns over allegedly racist comments made by Jeff Sessions, and remarks which appeared to be sympathetic to white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.
David Duke, the former leader of the KKK, welcomed the confirmation, writing on Twitter: “Mr. Trump’s appointment of Bannon, Flynn and Sessions are the first steps in the project of taking America back.”
Elizabeth Warren, who was temporarily banned from the chamber, wrote: “If Jeff Sessions makes even the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism & bigotry into the Justice Department, he’ll hear from all of us.”
President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Jeff Sessions, a former prosecutor, was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of alleged racist remarks.
Donald Trump has also nominated Mike Pompeo as CIA director and retired Lt-Gen Michael Flynn has been appointed national security adviser.
His latest picks were praised on Twitter by David Duke, former leader of the white supremacist KKK group.
In a statement, Donald Trump called Jeff Sessions a “world class legal mind”.
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“Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” he added.
Jeff Sessions, 69, said in a statement that he “enthusiastically” embraced Donald Trump’s vision for “one America and his commitment to equal justice under law”.
“I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality,” he said.
Jeff Sessions and Gen. Michael Flynn, 57, have been close allies of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign and share many of his views.
Jeff Sessions opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was an enthusiastic backer of Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
In 1986, Jeff Sessions was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship, but was rejected because of allegations that he had made racist remarks. He strongly denied the claims.
Gen. Michael Flynn, a vocal critic of the Obama administration since he was ousted as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, agrees with Donald Trump on renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal, strengthening ties with Russia and intensifying the fight against Islamic extremists.
He once tweeted that fear of Muslims was “rational”.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, 52, is a supporter of the conservative Tea Party movement. He originally backed Marco Rubio as the Republican candidate but supported Donald Trump after he won the nomination.
Mike Pompeo has also been a fierce critic of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, tweeting on November 17: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”