It’s exhausting to stay outraged about everything that has happened in Trump’s first 100 days, but at least Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps going out of his way to remind us how horrible he is.
Sessions has made it clear that fear mongering should replace facts when it comes to creating policy. Forget the antics of the rest of the administration; keeping up with Sessions’s decisions alone is almost a full time job. Here are some of the shitty things that shitty Jeff Sessions has done (and I won’t even talk about how I watched him dig around his nose and stare at his boogers when I was at his confirmation hearing):
When Sessions was sworn in, President Trump signed a handful of executive actions that were right in line with Sessions’s beliefs. One was the Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. In this order, the President called for “multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts” to deal with violence against police officers.
Never mind that violence against police is down. Never mind that there is no epidemic of unsolved crimes against cops. Facts clearly aren’t important to the Trump administration.
If facts mattered, the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have met so much resistance from Jeff Sessions back in 2013. Until 2015, tribal officers could not prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on tribal land — resulting in Native American women being sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, primarily by men who were not Native American. This was a problem the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act specifically addressed by allowing some tribal courts to sometimes prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence.
Sessions voted against VAWA, claiming that this tribal court provision was a “big concern” for him. But now, when he wants to convince the country that police are the ones we need to protect from violence, forcing multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts is fine. Cool.
Created by Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were born after 6/15/81 and who came to America before they were 16. Applicants have to be enrolled in school and pass a background check. The idea behind DACA was to help young people who were working to become valuable members of society by streamlining the citizenship process, especially since so many of the people eligible were primarily raised in the US.
Back in January, Donald Trump said that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” By February, Juan Manuel Montes became the first DACA recipient to be deported. Now it’s April, and I’m still not convinced Donald Trump knows what DACA is — but I’m damn sure Sessions knows and hates DACA.
“I believe everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported…we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element,” Sessions announced on ABC’s This Week (emphasis mine).
Their first focus might be the criminal element, but Sessions has a pretty messed up perception of constitutes criminal activity. Over 1.5 million undocumented people have told the federal government that they are here and applied for DACA. Now these same people have to place their trust in Sessions, who seems to have a burning desire to end the program.
Black Lives Matter
After high profile police killings, the DOJ will come into a city and investigate the police force. They will spend a year or two interviewing citizens and cops, doing ride alongs, holding meetings, and combing through documents to understand if there are problems within the structure of the department. After they create a report on their findings, they work with the city to make a consent decree — a legally binding contract that details how the city will address the issues the DOJ has found. Baltimore is, of course, one of the cities to be a recipient of such an investigation — and it has the unique position of having the process of creating and signing the consent decree spread between the Obama and Trump administrations.
Right before Baltimore held a public hearing on their consent decree, the DOJ asked for a delay in the implementation of the consent decree, and a review of all active decrees. The judge denied the Baltimore motion, and the public hearing went on as scheduled. Despite having the motion denied, the DOJ decided to again bring up the possibility of delaying the process.
“Reasonable minds may disagree if this decree is the perfect way forward,” stated John Gore, the DOJ’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, describing the very document his department created and signed. Gore added that the current administration has “grave concerns” over the decree, and reiterated the need for the already-denied motion for a delay.
The city responded that, not only was a delay was not necessary, but community input was the most important part of reform, and that both parties went to great lengths to involve the community in the creation of the consent decree. To delay it would shake the confidence the community has in the reform — of course, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes consent decrees “undermine respect for our police officers,” I assume that protecting the community is no longer a function of the DOJ.
Under any other circumstances, watching the DOJ argue against justice would have been unusual. In a way, Sessions’s DOJ helped bring residents and the police together: of the 49 residents who spoke at this hearing, the vast majority sided with the stance of the Baltimore Police Department.
In July 2015, I attended a very crowded town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College. The first half of the meeting was a panel discussion, and the second half was community members sharing their stories with representatives from the Department of Justice. Many tears were shed as citizens repeated how grateful they were that the DOJ was finally there, that someone was finally listening to their stories. At the time, had you told me that these representatives would become the sabotaging enemies of reform, I would have laughed at you.
The day after the Baltimore Uprising, people gathered around the riot police set up at Penn and North. There were prayers, debates, and crying — but there was also a feeling of cautious optimism.. People expressed hope that maybe now the government would do for Baltimore what it had done for Ferguson — a full investigation into the workings of the police department. Maybe now people would listen.
I would find it hard to believe that this sentiment is not expressed nationwide, every time a police shooting sparks large protests. So what happens when we take away the only government organization that listens?
When the next Freddie Gray or Philando Castile is killed, when the next city has had enough — will Sessions directly say, “sorry, but we no longer wish to help those who have been victimized by the police”? Did John Gore’s years working for Jones Day prepare him to be the one to tell people the official stance of the federal government is that their lives and struggles don’t matter?
Do you want a riot, Jeff Sessions? Because this is how you get a riot.