A bad hombre

Jeff Sessions is evil. While Donnie Twoscoops flounders around in his own ever-proliferating messes, Jefferson Beauregard is taking care of business.

Even amid the scandal of the firing of FBI director James Comey—an action in which Sessions himself had a central part—Sessions has quietly continued the radical remaking of the Justice Department he began when he took the job.

On May 20, Sessions completed his first hundred days as attorney general. His record thus far shows a determined effort to dismantle the Justice Department’s protections of civil rights and civil liberties. Reversing course from the Obama Justice Department on virtually every front, he is seeking to return us not just to the pre-Obama era but to the pre-civil-rights era. We should have seen it coming; many of his actions show a clear continuity with his earlier record as a senator and state attorney general.

He’s especially shitty on punishment-revenge issues, which of course fits well with his racism.

In the Senate, he was to the right of most of his own party, and led the charge to oppose a bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Republicans Charles Grassley and Mike Lee, that would have eliminated mandatory minimums and reduced sentences for some drug crimes. As attorney general, he has rescinded Eric Holder’s directive to federal prosecutors to reserve the harshest criminal charges for the worst offenders. Sessions has instead mandated that the prosecutors pursue the most serious possible charge in every case. Prosecutors ordinarily have wide latitude in deciding how to charge a suspect—they can select any of a number of possible crimes to charge, decline to pursue charges altogether, or support a diversion program in which the suspect avoids any charges if he successfully completes treatment or probation. Not all crimes warrant the same response, and prosecutorial discretion makes considered justice possible. Yet Sessions has ordered prosecutors to pursue a one-size-fits-all strategy, seeking the harshest possible penalty regardless of the circumstances.

Hence my choice of the word “evil.” That’s evil more or less by definition – wanting to inflict harsh punishment on people regardless of circumstances, in other words for no fucking reason. If you explicitly rule out taking circumstances into account, then it’s just sadism. It also renders the criminal justice system meaningless. It amounts to saying “If we can pin something on you, it doesn’t matter what, that gives us license to torment you and by god that’s what we’re going to do, because we like it.”

And he plans to do away with all these pesky investigations into police departments around the country. We can’t be holding law enforcement to account! Oh hell no, that would allow the brown people to take over and eat all the cake.

Under previous administrations of both parties, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has responded to reports of systemic police abuse in cities like Los Angeles, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Chicago, Baltimore, and Ferguson by investigating, reporting, and entering “consent decrees”—court-enforceable agreements with local police departments—designed to reduce or eliminate abuse. Before his confirmation, Sessions condemned such consent decrees as “dangerous” and an “end run around the democratic process.” As attorney general, he has ordered a review of all such decrees, expressing concern that they might harm “officer morale,” about which he seems to care more than about the constitutional rights of citizens.

The cops are always right, regardless of circumstances. The accused must always get the maximum sentence, regardless of circumstances.

When Sessions was a senator, he opposed extending hate crimes protections to women and gays and lesbians, explaining that “I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.”

I can think of a reason for that that’s not the same as “it doesn’t happen.”

As Alabama attorney general, Sessions prosecuted black civil rights activists for helping to get out the vote. The judge dismissed many of the charges even before getting to trial; the jury acquitted the defendants on the rest. When the Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the Voting Rights Act by invalidating a provision requiring states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to prove that any changes they sought to make to voting law not undermine minority voting opportunities, Sessions called it “good news…for the South.” As attorney general, his Justice Department took the extraordinary step of withdrawing its claim, already fully litigated and developed in trial court, that Texas had adopted a voter ID law for racially discriminatory reasons. The court nonetheless ruled that Texas had in fact engaged in intentional race discrimination. It refused to close its eyes to evidence of racial intent, even if the new Justice Department was willing to do so.

His determined opposition to civil rights and voting rights goes all the way back. It’s been his life’s work.

And then David Cole gets to an item I didn’t know about:

As Alabama attorney general, Sessions oversaw the filing of a 222-count criminal indictment against TIECO, a competitor of US Steel, at a time when US Steel and its attorney were contributors to Sessions’s Senate campaign. Every single count was dismissed, many for prosecutorial misconduct. The judge wrote that “the misconduct of the Attorney General in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or witnessed by the Court.”

Wow. What a package.

Plus of course he lied at his confirmation hearing, and meddled in the Comey business after he “recused” himself.

The attorney general is the nation’s top law enforcement officer. He is responsible for investigating federal crimes, advising on the appointment of judges and the constitutionality of bills, defending federal government programs, and enforcing the civil rights laws. It’s an awesome responsibility in any administration. But perhaps never before has it been so important, given President Trump’s lack of interest in the rule of law, ignorance of constitutional laws and norms, and hostility to basic civil rights and civil liberties. What’s needed at the Justice Department is a strong, independent, and thoughtful leader who can exert some restraint on the president. Instead, we have Jeff Sessions, a man who, when asked whether Trump’s grabbing women by the genitals would constitute sexual assault, replied, “I don’t characterize that as a sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.”

That’s our attorney general: willing to throw the book at drug offenders and undocumented immigrants, but unwavering in his defense of a president who brags about assaulting women and targeting Muslims.

He’s got that chipmunk voice and that smarmy grin, but he’s evil.

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