Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Attorney General
Religion & Liberty Online

Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Attorney General

Note: This is post #16 in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet. See the series introduction here.

Cabinet position: Attorney General

Department: Department of Justice

Current Secretary: Jeff Sessions

Succession: The Attorney General is seventh in the presidential line of succession.

Department Mission: “The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Office of the Attorney General which evolved over the years into the head of the Department of Justice and chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters generally and gives advice and opinions to the President and to the heads of the executive departments of the Government when so requested. In matters of exceptional gravity or importance the Attorney General appears in person before the Supreme Court. Since the 1870 Act that established the Department of Justice as an executive department of the government of the United States, the Attorney General has guided the world’s largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws.” (Source)

Department Budget: $29.0 billion for FY2017

Number of employees: 118,110 positions. This staffing level is comprised of: Agents (23,885 or 20%); Attorneys (10,046 or 8%); Correctional Officers (20,969 or 18%); Intelligence Analysts (4,169 or 4%); and Other (59,041 or 50%). “Other” captures analysts, administrative, clerical, information technology specialists, legal services, and security specialists.

Primary Duties of the Secretary: “To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” (Source)

Secretary Info

Secretary: Jeff Sessions

Previous occupation: United States Senator for Alabama since 1996.

Education: B.A. from Huntingdon College and J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Previous government experience: Served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and as the Attorney General of Alabama.

Religious Affiliation: United Methodist

Notable achievements:

Was an Eagle Scout and earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Served in the Army Reserve and earned the rank of Captain.

Was nominated for the position of district court judge by President Ronald Reagan (but rejected by the Senate judiciary committee).

Notable quotes:

On the role of attorney general: “If the attorney general is asked to do something plainly unlawful, he or she cannot do that. I would have to resign before executing policy that would be unlawful or unconstitutional.”

On the rule of law: “No American is above the law, and no powerful special interest will cower this department.”


Previous and forthcoming posts in this series: Secretary of StateSecretary of the TreasurySecretary of Education, Secretary of LaborSecretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of CommerceSecretary of Health and Human ServicesSecretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of EnergySecretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).