The God-King is very upset with the Klanmaster General, plus other stuff. (More)
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else”
So declared the God-King in an interview with the New York Times. Yet the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips explains that the God-King should have known, based on previous public statements, that the Klanmaster General would do exactly that:
Sessions didn’t explicitly promise to recuse himself from any potential FBI Russia investigation in his January confirmation hearing to oversee the Justice Department. But he did promise to seek legal counsel to avoid the conflict of interest of serving on the Trump campaign and then in the Trump administration. And that’s exactly what happened.
In early March, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation on the advice of Justice Department ethics officials, saying, “They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation.” In late March, then-FBI Director James B. Comey confirmed to Congress that they were investigating potential Trump collusion.
Sessions’s recusal also came immediately after The Washington Post revealed that Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and had not disclosed it to the Senate, leading to accusations by Democrats that he was trying to hide something.
If we follow Sessions’s public testimony, it doesn’t really make sense that Trump was caught off guard by Sessions’s recusal. It’s clear Sessions had considered the possibility, and he promised to do what was legally and ethically correct, not politically expedient.
That leaves us with two other options for why Trump is still so mad about this: It’s possible Sessions told Trump something else in private. Or the president is throwing others under the bus – he tried to discredit many of the officials involved in the Russia investigation in the same New York Times interview – before the bus hits him.
“There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point”
In addition to lashing out at Sessions on Wednesday, Trump went after nearly every other Justice Department official involved in the Russia probe. He complained that Sessions’ recusal put the Russia investigation under the jurisdiction of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who worked as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he complained. Trump seems to be implying that Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller because he’s a Democrat, but Rosenstein actually grew up in Pennsylvania and his political affiliation is unknown.
Trump also continued his unwise habit of making vague threats against those involved in the Russia probe, such as when he threatened to release tapes of his discussions with Comey (though they don’t exist). Trump told the Times that he interviewed Mueller to replace Comey just one day before he was appointed special counsel.
“He was up here, and he wanted the job,” Trump said. “I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
When asked if he thought Mueller probing his family’s finances beyond their ties to Russia would cross a red line, Trump responded “I would say yes.” He didn’t say he’d have Mueller fired, but he added, “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
You think Trump can’t shock you anymore, and then he comes out with something like this. He threw Jeff Sessions under the bus because Jeff Sessions has a modicum of what Trump conspicuously lacks: a sense of professional ethics, and of what it means to live under the rule of law. Trump thinks the purpose of the Attorney General is not to serve the law, but to serve the president’s wishes.
The law is whatever President Trump says it is. Ethics are whatever serves President Trump’s interests.
I don’t see how Jeff Sessions has any choice now but to resign. He has lost the confidence of the president. And I think Sessions will one day very soon be grateful that he got out of this Dumpster fire of an administration before it all went to hell.
The Republicans hold Congress and the presidency, and they can’t get a damn thing done. Far as I’m concerned, one of the few good things about the Trump administration is the fact that Jeff Sessions is running the Justice Department.
Not so fast, Rod. You didn’t read the rest of yesterday’s news….
“It’s not a pro-police program; it’s a constitutional evil”
The Washington Post reports that the Klanmaster General wants to make it easier for cops to steal from you:
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it will be restarting a federal asset forfeiture program that had been shut down by the previous administration.
Known as “adoptive forfeiture,” the program – which gives police departments greater leeway to seize property of those suspected of a crime, even if they’re never charged with or convicted of one – was a significant source of revenue for local law enforcement. In the 12 months before Attorney General Eric Holder shut down the program in 2015, state and local authorities took in $65 million that they shared with federal agencies, according to an analysis of federal data by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that represents forfeiture defendants.
While adoptive forfeitures amount to just a small percentage of the annual multi-billion dollar forfeiture haul, they’ve come under harsh criticism for allowing local authorities to sidestep state guidelines and instead take cash and property under much more permissive federal rules.
The Obama administration shut down that program because it was routinely abused:
In September 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union reached a settlement with Tenaha, Texas, authorities who were accused in a class action lawsuit of wrongfully pulling over a thousand or so mostly black and Hispanic motorists for no other apparent reason except to allow police to confiscate their properties. One case involved a 32-year-old black man, James Morrow, who was pulled over by police for driving too close to the white line. Despite the fact no crime was committed, and no warrant issued, police ordered him from his car, seized his vehicle and $3,969 in cash, and jailed him. He was never charged with a crime – but had to spend $3,500 on an attorney to prove his innocence, just the same. In the end, he was left with $400 and an attitude of utter disbelief that modern day justice could allow such an unwarranted seizure.
Another man in that same class action lawsuit, Dale Agostini, suffered even greater loss. Agostini, a Maryland restaurant owner, had been driving with his fiancee, their infant and an employee through that same Texas town, Teneha, to purchase equipment for the business. He carried a large amount of cash, $50,291. Why? It really doesn’t matter — this is America, after all — but nonetheless, he told police, when he was pulled over, that it was to get better bargaining power with restaurant equipment sellers. They give discounts for cash buys, he said. Police unleashed a drug sniffing dog on the car, found nothing, but then said the simple presence of the dog served as a search warrant, and proceeded to rifle through the vehicle. Ultimately, police accused Agonstini of money laundering and took all the cash, six cell phones, an iPod and the car. And oh yes, they sent the infant to child protective services and Agostini, his fiancee and employee to jail.
Neither Agostini nor his fiancee or employee were ever charged with a crime.
But it took months – a long-running court fight to prove his innocence – for Agostini to win back his cash.
That complaint isn’t from a liberal, by the way. It’s from conservative Cheryl Chumley at the right-wing Washington Times. She writes:
Let’s be clear on this one point: Civil asset forfeiture is an evil.
It’s not a pro-police program; it’s a constitutional evil.
And as the Post Christopher Ingraham reports at the link above, this isn’t about seizing houses from crime bosses:
Under federal guidelines, the state and local agencies making adoptive seizures are entitled to up to 80 percent of the proceeds, while federal agencies would receive at least a 20 percent cut. The median value of those seizures was about $9,000, not exactly indicative of major drug trafficking operations.
Some of the seizures were as low as a few hundred dollars, including $107 taken by Kanakee, Ill., authorities on March 12, 2014. That money was turned over to the DEA, which is entitled to keep $21.40 of it, with the remaining $85.60 to be returned to Kanakee police.
These numbers comport with numerous other investigations that have found that forfeiture efforts tend to target poor neighborhoods. Between 2012 and 2017, for instance, the median value of assets seized by Cook County police was just over $1,000. A 2015 ACLU analysis of cash forfeitures in Philadelphia turned up a median value of $192.
The small dollar values often at stake undercut forfeiture defenders’ claims that the practice is necessary to disrupt major criminal organizations. A 2015 Institute for Justice report found that between 1997 and 2013, 87 percent of the Department of Justice’s forfeitures did not require any criminal charge or conviction.
Simply, cops run forfeiture as a shakedown under the color of law. The mounting criticism – from across the political spectrum – spurred many states to reform their forfeiture laws. But the Klanmaster General will undo most of those safeguards, as reported by Mother Jones Ashley DeJean:
Sessions’ new rule outlines safeguards that Justice Department officials claim will keep the practice from being abused, but the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm, argues that the restrictions won’t protect people from police unjustly seizing their property. “The supposed ‘safeguards’ implemented by this policy directive offer little or no substantive protection to property owners as they depend primarily on self-policing rather than judicial oversight,” the group wrote in response to the new policy. “Most amount to nothing more than a pledge to be more careful.
By seizing the property under the looser federal rules – and giving the feds a 20% kickback – local cops can avoid stricter state laws. And several Republicans have already objected, as The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explains:
When President Obama appointed Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General, Marco Rubio declared, “I opposed Loretta Lynch’s nomination because of her failure to identify any limit on the president’s ability to ignore the laws passed by Congress as well as her obvious enthusiasm for civil-asset forfeiture, which can deprive innocent people of their property rights without due process.”
Senator Rand Paul stated, “People who are victims of civil forfeiture are often poor, African American or Hispanic, and people who can’t afford an attorney to try to get the money that’s taken from them by the government,” and Breitbart ran his argument it as an exclusive. The Heritage Foundation was pro-reform. The American Enterprise Institute too. Earlier this year, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner introduced reform legislation.
If all of the conservatives who’ve previously expounded on the unjustness of civil-asset forfeiture fought to assemble a coalition to stop Attorney General Sessions, they could very likely succeed. After all, lots of ACLU liberals and elected Democrats favor federal reforms as well. I haven’t mentioned that until now because in the era of Donald Trump, a faction on the right seems to hate whatever liberals favor more than they like liberty, and another faction seems willing to defend whatever the Trump Administration does so long as the press is criticizing it.
We’ll now see whether Rubio, Paul, Sensenbrenner, et. al. truly object to cops stealing from citizens, or whether that was an anti-Obama-only complaint. You know … like deficits … and health insurance with huge deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.
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Good day and good nuts