Why Donald Trump's latest cabinet picks are so controversial

Jamie Roberton

Former Health and Science Producer

Donald Trump's latest appointments to his administration have fuelled the fears of civil rights groups - but delighted the former head of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

The president-elect has chosen Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general, retired general Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA.

All three have previously made inflammatory comments about ethnic minorities.

Ex-KKK leader David Duke believes the appointments - as well as that of Steve Bannon as chief strategist - will "take America back", while a neo-Nazi website said it was "like Christmas" for its followers.

Here's more on Trump's trio of hard-line picks - and why they have worried activists.

  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general

Donald Trump sits with US Senator Jeff Sessions at Trump Tower in New York. Credit: Reuters

Jeff Sessions is regarded as one of the most right-wing politicians on Capitol Hill and was one of the first elected Republicans to endorse Trump, believing the businessman was the candidate to tackle an issue closest to his heart - immigration.

His career has been dogged by racism allegations.

In 1986, he was blocked from becoming a federal judge after former colleagues testified that he had used the N-word and joked that he thought KKK was "OK until I found out they smoked pot".

Sessions told CNN in 2009 that he had been devastated by the claims, branding them "false" and "distorted".

One of the attorneys who testified against him told the New York Times earlier this week that Sessions as attorney general was a "frightening thought".

President-elect Trump praised his “world-class legal mind" when he confirmed his appointment on Friday morning, but rights groups and Democrats immediately reacted with horror.

Catherine Cortez Masto, who won Nevada to become the first Latina senator, said Trump's choice was "unacceptable", while the Congressional Black Caucus said Sessions would "set us back in the advancement of civil rights and race relations across the country".

Representative Luis Guiterrez said: “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man."

Gustavo Torres, from the Latino and immigrant organisation Casa, said Sessions was "a dangerous man in this position", adding: "He has voiced some of the most anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposals to come out of the Republican Party.”

  • Michael Flynn, national security adviser

Fifty-seven-year-old Michael Flynn spent 33 years in the army. Credit: Reuters

The retired army lieutenant general was one of Trump's most loyal confidantes during his campaign and regularly advised the tycoon on foreign policy.

The 57-year-old was in charge of the Defence Intelligence Agency for two years until he was fired by President Obama for what Flynn claimed was his tough stance on Islamist extremism.

He has previously described Islam as a "cancer" and claimed a fear of Muslims is "rational".

Flynn actively encouraged Republicans to chant "Lock her up! Lock her up!", in reference to Hillary Clinton, at the party's national convention in July.

“Lock her up! Yes, that’s right, lock her up!” he said.He has also been criticised over his regular appearances on Russian state-owned TV channel Russia Today. Last year, he was pictured sitting on the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala event.

The Council on American-Relations urged Trump to reconsider Flynn's appointment, arguing that “a person who believes the faith of one fourth of the world’s population is a ‘cancer’ should not be advising the president on anything, let alone on our nation’s security".

  • Mike Pompeo, CIA director

US Representative Mike Pompeo has accepted Trump's offer of CIA Director Credit: Reuters

Fiercely anti-abortion and pro-gun, the Kansas congressman and former army officer was elected on the back of the Tea Party movement in 2010.

Pompeo was strongly criticised after the 2013 Boston bombings when he claimed Muslim leaders had not condemned terror attacks.

“Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts,” he said.

He has been a passionate advocate of keeping Guantanamo Bay open, claiming it has been a "goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism".

Pompeo was on the House Select Committee for the Benghazi hearing, where he eviscerated Hillary Clinton for the deaths of four Americans in 2012.

Sources within the CIA have welcomed news of Pompeo's appointment, telling NBC News that they breathed a sigh of relief when the 52-year-old was chosen over other floated names.

Ibrahim Hooper, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told ITV News that the selections of Pompeo, Flynn and Sessions were troubling and confirmed his worst fears about America under a Trump administration.

"These are very powerful positions that set major policies in our nation, and if these individuals have these agenda-driven, bias, extremist, Islamophobic views I think we are in a lot of trouble."