Ethics Dunce: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

There were many good reasons to oppose Jeff Sessions as President Trump’ nominee to be the next Attorney General. One, which I focused on, was that his nomination foolishly fed into the Democratic slur that Trump and the Republicans were racists. Sessions had been successfully tarred decades ago based on some racially-insensitive comments he had made, and even though tangible evidence of any racial bias was thin, it was foolish for Trump to court a controversy when there were plenty of equally or more qualified candidates. Another reason was that Sessions had been an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy for the GOP nomination, which is signature significance for stupidity, poor judgment or recklessness. Take your pick.

Now Sessions has announced, while speaking at a National District Attorneys Association conference, that the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal government’s use of civil asset forfeiture, an unethical, Constitutionally dubious practice that needs to be cut back or eliminated.

“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”


Utah’s Republican Senator Mike Lee expressed alarm at Sessions’ announcement yesterday, saying in a statment, “As Justice Thomas has previously said, there are serious constitutional concerns regarding modern civil asset forfeiture practices. The Department has an obligation to consider due process constraints in crafting its civil asset forfeiture policies.” Justice Clarence Thomas’ had written in his dissent in an asset forfeiture case last month that forfeiture operations “frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.”

The libertarian magazine “Reason,” which has consistently opposed civil forfeiture as it is now used,  investigated   more than 23,000 police seizures in Cook County, Illinois over the last five years and found that Chicago’s poor neighborhoods were hit hardest by asset forfeiture. An investigation of Mississippi court records showed that law enforcement engaged in many  abusive seizures. In 2014, an investigative series by the Washington Post found that warrantless police seizures of cash and property resulted in the government  taking more property from Americans than burglars did.

The slow but steady realization that civil asset forfeiture is a scam—police department budgets are swelled by what they take and auction off—has prompted many states to pass asset forfeiture reform in recent years.  Former Attorney General Eric Holder began the process of reforming the Justice Department’s participation in civil forfeiture in 2015, as the Post reported,

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr….barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.


Ethics Alarms first published an essay condemning the practice in 2012.

Sessions has long been an advocate of civil asset forfeiture. The Democrats could have, should have, indeed had an obligation to, confront Sessions on this issue in his confirmation hearings, if for no other reason than to educate the American public. (Senator Mike Lee and other Republicans should have grilled Sessions on it as well.) The issue was barely touched upon.  All the Democrats were interested in was pandering to their race-baiting base and to make the confirmation about Sessions’ alleged racial bias. As usual, the party’s race obsession blotted out the sun and the light: his support for the outrageous practice of civil asset forfeiture alone should have sunk his nomination.

The mainstream news media was similarly so focused on race, being constrained by Democratic talking point memos, perhaps, that it neglected substance. The main voices raised against Sessions’ civil forfeiture support were conservatives, like George Will , and the Wall Street Journal editors.

Who knows? Maybe if Sessions’ hearings had explained this abusive practice that mostly affects average Americans, President Trump would have learned the truth about civil forfeiture—how sure are you that he really knows what it is and how it works?—,tweeted that Sessions was not one of “the best people” after all, and pulled his nomination.


Source: Reason

Graphic: This is common sense


22 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

  1. And herein lies the issue with both the media and the Democrats focusing all of their attention on a seemingly manufactured Russia narrative or on how racist this guy or that guy is according to the newest definition of racism. There are a lot of issues that need attention, and these larks steal all of the attention from real issues.

    • But Rusty, their objective and hope is to completely excise Trump from the scene. That’s the big prize they think is in their grasp. Once that’s accomplished and Trump is gone and HRC is made president, they can clean up the details and get back to imposing the liberal order, i.e., the natural order of things. So it’s just matter of first things first.

      • Problem is, now that this precedent has been set, is any future president going to get better treatment? It seems that, at least in recent history, presidential elections are close, and the country divided, so no matter who gets elected in the future, somewhere on the order of half of the country is not going to like it. That is nothing new. What is new (and this sort of started with Obama, but Trumps presidency has brought this to a whole new level, is the level of disrespect, and attempts to undermine the presidency that we have seen.

        Do the Democrats think that the next one is going to get a pass form the Republicans? How many times have we seen this come back around to bite the opposition party. We now have a Supreme Court justice that is evidence of this, and this time to the Democrats displeasure.

        When do we get back to having the best interest of the country in mind, instead of who has what letter next to their names.

          • Justice Gorsuch was recently confirmed. By rights that should have been Garland, but at some point years ago the Democrats, under Biden, pushed this envelope, by threatening to delay a confirmation if it came up in 1992. The Republicans then pushed this envelope further last year. I am not saying it is an equivalence, just that this is the kind of thing that one party does to press their advantage only to have it come back and blow up in their face when the tides turn. Another example of this is the filibuster rule change in 2013, initiated by the Dems that they are feeling the wrath of now as well.

            • Yet another was the use of an obscure Parliamentary device to pass Obamacare. Incredibly, a New York Times essay explaining why Trump firing Comey was a “high crime” argued that it violated an “unwritten rule” and thus was a “crime against the system.” IMPEACHMENT! I almost posted on it, so blatant an example of the double standard it was. Another, far more serious and consequential breach of an “unwritten rule” was the Democrats sliming Judge Bork and rejecting him based on partisanship rather than qualifications. That, as much “the Biden Rule”, let the GOP reject Garland by destroying the tradition that POTUS could appoint whoever he wanted unless there was a real disqualification.

              But it’s only a “high crime” when Republicans stomp on “unwritten rules.”

  2. In my opinion civil asset forfeiture is depriving someone of their property without due process of law which violates the 14th amendment and the Supreme Court of the United States should rule the practice unconstitutional – period.

    The fact that it has not be ruled as unconstitutional is terribly, terribly disturbing!

  3. This is proof that the Establishment (nee the Elites, or the new Aristocracy) live in a bubble and does not understand what their so called constituents live with out in the real world.

    This law is abused in almost every case where it comes up, and there is NO recourse. (do a little research and be as shocked as I was, several years ago) They make a case against the property instead of the person, and the former owner has no legal standing in that case!

    So a person driving through, say, east Texas gets stopped for a traffic violation with $10,000 cash to purchase a car, for instance. The police impound the cash, but let the driver go without charges. The driver is NEVER charged and the money is never returned.

  4. Jaybe if Sessions’ hearings had explained this abusive practice that mostly affects average Americans, President Trump would have learned the truth about civil forfeiture—how sure are you that he really knows what it is and how it works?—,tweeted that Sessions was not one of “the best people” after all, and pulled his nomination.

    Most unlikely. Of course he doesn’t know what it is and how it works. He replies on those he trusts – Sessions before his nomination, Pence, and the rest of the Inner Party – to advise him. And Sheriffs of course. It’s simple, from his viewpoint.

    We actually have a record of his thought processes here, in the following transcript.

    SHERIFF AUBREY: Sheriff John Aubrey, fifth-term sheriff, Jefferson County, Kentucky. Past president of National Sheriffs’ Association. And my fellow sheriffs have brought up a number of points, and I’d like to add two to it that I know are on your plate and the administration’s plate. The 1033 program, where we were sharing Department of Defense surplus material that helps us in our war. They were used in the war, and they helped us in our war. That got severely curtailed.

    And the other thing is asset forfeiture. People want to say we’re taking money and without due process. That’s not true. We take money from dope dealers —

    THE PRESIDENT: So you’re saying – okay, so you’re saying the asset-taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right? And you’re not allowed to do it now?

    SHERIFF AUBREY: No, they have curtailed it a little bit. And I’m sure the folks are —

    THE PRESIDENT: And that’s for legal reasons? Or just political reasons?

    SHERIFF AUBREY: They make it political and they make it – they make up stories. All you’ve got to do —

    THE PRESIDENT: I’d like to look into that, okay? There’s no reason for that. Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that? Are you aware of this?

    [Then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente]: I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

    THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?

    MR. BOENTE: Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case. And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

    THE PRESIDENT: And now what happens?

    MR. BOENTE: Well, now we’ve just been given – there’s been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.

    THE PRESIDENT: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.

    SHERIFF AUBREY: You have to be careful how you speak, I guess. But a lot of pressure is coming out of – was coming out of Congress. I don’t know that that will continue now or not.

    THE PRESIDENT: I think less so. I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they’ve let this happen. And I think badly. I think you’ll be back in shape. So, asset forfeiture, we’re going to go back on, okay?

    SHERIFF AUBREY: Thank you, sir.

    THE PRESIDENT: I mean, how simple can anything be? You all agree with that, I assume, right?

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