U.S Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was an intimate component of a presidential campaign built on promises—some 663 of them. The administration is at an Indy 500 pace to break most, if not all, of them.
Attorney General Sessions issued a slew of “get tough” on crime promises shortly after the President tagged the former Alabama Senator to be his attorney general. The president now concedes that that was a mistake, although not for the same reasons most rational thinking people hold.
Beauregard Sent Home to Change Clothes
Sessions, a Selma native in the pre-civil rights era, began his political career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama. It didn’t take long for him to establish a reputation in the legal community in Mobile that he was not an intellectually or emotionally stable prosecutor. This was evidenced in the early 1980s in a U.S. District Courthouse in Mobile during the prosecution of some Colombian drug dealers when Sessions showed up for the voir proceedings dressed in his military uniform and all its regalia. Sessions was a captain in the US Army reserves. The trial judge had to send the AUSA home like a misbehaved child to change his clothes.
In his first eight months as attorney general, Sessions had promised a “war on crime” to get rid of the “plague of violence” sweeping the nation and to cure the nation’s drug/opioid epidemic by seeking harsher sentences on anyone convicted of a drug offense, no matter how minor.
Sessions Dictates Dramatic Changes of DOJ Policy
During his brief tenure, Sessions has already exhibited the same kind of erratic behavior as attorney general that he routinely engaged in as a AUSA. PBS has reported that the attorney general “has launched multiple changes to shake up how his agency works. [He has] stepped up leak investigation, tripling the number of cases. And he started a review that could change the rules for subpoenaing reporters.”
These are several of the other unstable changes Sessions has imposed on the Justice Department:
- He changed the department’s position in a major Ohio voting rights case, from opposing the systematic removal of thousands of names on the state’s voter rolls to supporting the state’s racially-motivated decision to strike the voters.
- He changed the department’s position in a Colorado case that involves a Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple from opposing the baker’s First Amendment religious belief claim against homosexuality to supporting the baker’s discrimination against the gay couple;
- He has changed the department’s position over consent decrees with police departments that were found, after a federal investigation, to have a pattern of civil rights violations by scaling back the authority of the department’s civil rights division to conduct such investigations; and
- He has changed the department’s position on curtailing the militarization of the nation’s police departments by telling them they will now have all the military surplus equipment and weapons they need to keep themselves safe from violent crime.
Fortunately, although it may be short-lived, there are some folks in the criminal justice system who are not buying into the “crime hysteria” being peddled by the attorney general.
Sessions Crime Hysteria Debunked
For example, in February, the attorney general brought together a group of federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors and named them the “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.” Much like the judge who sent Sessions home to change clothes, the Task Force refused to issue a single new policy recommendation in support of Sessions “war on crime.”
To make matters worse for the attorney general, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse (TRAC) announced earlier this month that federal criminal prosecutions have decreased by 12.3 percent during the first ten months of FY 2017 over the previous year. The current pace is some 31.3 percent lower than it was five years ago when Eric Holder was attorney general.
Through July 2017, immigration offenses constituted 53.1 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions—not violent or drug offenses. In fact, drug offense convictions decreased by 4.0 percent, bringing the prosecution for these offenses to the lowest level since FY 1997.
Drug Prosecutions at Lowest Level Since 1997
And, in fact, the largest drop in federal drug convictions was in the Southern District of Texas (Houston)—a 32.6 percent reduction according to TRAC.
President Trump gave his supporters a bucket list of promises, the most strident of which was to deliver the nation from its “lawless chaos.”
What has the president delivered?
Only One of 42 Nominees is a Woman
In March, he abruptly ordered 46 of the nation’s 93 federal prosecutors to resign or be fired. The New York Times reported in June that because Trump considers loyalty the leading qualification for appointment in his administration, he is having a hard time finding “competent, experienced” prosecutors willing to accept that demand and wage his “war on crime” so long as it does not involve prosecution of corruption and most other white collar crime. The president nominated just one AUSAs some three months after he en masse fired the 46 federal prosecutors. On September 8, Trump announced his sixth wave of US Attorney nominations, bringing his nomination count to 42 of the 46 who were either removed or resigned. The latest wave of nominations caused concern that only one of the 42 people nominated to fill the vacancies, is a woman.
Apparently, the President is having difficulty finding skilled, professional people who want to be associated with his ailing administration, especially as one of Sessions’ soldiers in the “war on crime” for which there is absolutely no need.
President Trump has openly expressed his regrets about appointing Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as his attorney general. Sessions probably regrets having accepted the appointment.