Will President Trump fire or demand the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after repeatedly attacking Sessions on Twitter and in statements and interviews? Let’s hope not, because Sessions is doing an outstanding job to fight crime and make America safer.
President Trump has repeatedly made clear his frustration and disappointment with Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of Justice Department investigations into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 race for the White House.
But Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Thursday that he “made the right decision” in recusing himself from the FBI’s Russia investigation because of his role in the Trump presidential campaign. And Sessions said he has no intention of resigning, though he understands he serves at the pleasure of the president and that President Trump has the right to replace him.
One can understand President Trump’s growing frustration with the seemingly endless and ever-expanding Russia investigations. The president has said he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
There is a genuine feeling among the men and women in blue that, for the first time in eight years, the president and attorney general have their backs.
One can even see why President Trump would question why the investigations encircling him continue to widen, while those against Hillary Clinton have faded into the woodwork.
But dismissing Sessions as attorney general would be a giant step in the wrong direction. Because, although he has been missing from the Russia battle, Sessions has been highly engaged – to significant benefit – in perhaps even more important areas.
It’s hard to overstate the problems Sessions inherited after two successive attorneys general turned the Department of Justice into a political arm of the Obama administration. Through its “blame first, ask questions later” posture of hostility to the police – in Ferguson, Mo.; Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas and elsewhere – the federal government under President Obama had lost the trust of its partners in local law enforcement.
A survey of nearly 3,400 law enforcement officers on their attitudes in the post-Ferguson/Dallas/Baton Rouge world of attacks on police confirmed anecdotal evidence in two areas – it found officers had begun to disengage in proactive policing and felt under attack in a way they hadn’t before.
This isn’t just a problem for police morale – it’s a problem for us all, because when police fear prosecution for doing their jobs they sometimes do less, giving dangerous criminals greater freedom to everyone else. Like all citizens, law enforcement officers should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But under the Obama administration, when questions arose about police conduct officers too often were presumed guilty until proven innocent.
Nearly half of the officers in the survey said they had made fewer traffic and pedestrian stops since Ferguson. More than half said their enjoyment at work had decreased. They were confident in their training on when to use force, but 40 percent said they had become more reluctant to do so.
And it is hard to blame them. In 2016, 20 officers nationwide were killed in ambush attacks – the most in a year since 1995. There have been ambushes in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City and elsewhere.
But since Sessions took over, things have begun to improve. There is a genuine feeling among the men and women in blue that, for the first time in eight years, the president and attorney general have their backs.
The Obama Justice Department had a practice of suing police departments for alleged civil rights violations. It investigated 25 police departments and sheriff’s offices around the country and was enforcing court-ordered agreements in 2016 to resolve civil rights lawsuits against 19 cities, including Ferguson, Baltimore, New Orleans and Cleveland.
Sessions began rebuilding police trust by pumping the brakes. “We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness,” he said. “And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that.”
Sessions also has called for a return to tougher sentencing. For example, he encouraged federal prosecutors to bring charges when drug crimes also involve guns, so criminals can be subject to the tougher sentencing in federal courts.
Sessions is also considering increased prosecution of marijuana law violations, even in states that have legalized the drug. “I don’t think America will be a better place when more people, especially young people, smoke pot,” he said.
In addition, Sessions is working with the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on illegal border crossings and is working with police chiefs across the country to fight the opioid crisis that is ravaging American cities and towns, taking the lives of over 50,000 Americans last year.
Last week, Sessions took important steps to restore civil asset forfeitures, a critical tool that supports state and local law enforcement, and strengthens an array of federal policing task forces and programs. He understands the sacrifice and risk that law-enforcement officers face and knows violent crime is worsening after decades of decline and must be fought with renewed vigor.
So, Mr. President, law enforcement understands your frustration. We’ve endured accusations we considered unfair as well. We know what it’s like to work among people who seem bent on our destruction.
But please, before you dismiss General Sessions, or demand his resignation, reflect on the good he has done for American law enforcement and in advancing the right agenda in his brief tenure. If you do, I think you will agree that he is worth keeping on. His actions are keeping the American people safer and getting criminals off our streets.