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Political Points vs. Public Safety

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The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has this post with the above title.

Efforts by state and local politicians in California to direct local law enforcement to not cooperate with the federal government may score points in the world of politics. In the real world, public safety is going to suffer.
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A more immediate consequence of refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement may be a decrease in funding, personnel, and equipment provided by federal authorities to local task forces which enforce California state laws. These task forces, including those led by the Sheriff's Department in Los Angeles and others across the state, combat a myriad of state crimes that include human trafficking, gangs, drugs, auto/cargo theft, hate crimes, and environmental crimes. Political decisions to end cooperation with federal authorities on their law enforcement priorities may result in the federal Department of Justice deciding to remove these resources and direct them to states not antagonistic to federal law enforcement. Such a move would diminish public safety in Los Angeles and across California, where local law enforcement is already understaffed and underfunded.

At the end of the day, refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement may be a winning political strategy; it is not a winning public safety strategy.
USA Today has published an op-ed I penned arguing that Bob Mueller, though a good man and a public servant of established integrity, is too close to his star witness, Jim Comey, to continue as Special Counsel. 

Under the same ethics rules that prompted the Attorney General to recuse himself from the Russia investigation  --  28 USC 528 and 28 CFR Sec. 45.2  --  Mueller should step aside, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should, if he be so advised, appoint a replacement. Mueller has a longtime relationship with Comey that "may result in a personal...conflict of interest, or the appearance thereof."  

For good reason, especially in a prominent investigation where public trust in government is so clearly at issue, it's more important, not less, that this high standard be rigorously obeyed.

My prior discussion of the case is here.

Executive Privilege or Stonewalling?

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In today's testimony, Attorney General Sessions declined to provide the substance of conversations he had with the President.  There was heated argument about this. The Democrats' point of view was that Sessions was necessarily either invoking executive privilege or simply stonewalling.

Question:  Which was it?

Answer:  Neither.  

It was the most recent iteration of an established policy grounded in separation of powers and used, quite a few times as it happens, by high officers of the Obama Administration.
Perhaps I should title this post, "Law and Economics."

The Attorney General gave his potentially explosive testimony this afternoon.  Within about an hour of the time he finished, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied off a two-day slump and finished at an all time high.

Is this necessarily an indication that the market was reacting to Sessions' testimony? Nope.  But it's unlikely that the market would hit a record close if it viewed developments in Congress as likely to de-stabilize the Administration.
Today's News Scan notes a bill in the California Legislature to repeal what amounts to a mandatory minimum for use of a gun to commit a crime.  Last month when this bill was heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee, Michele Hanisee and Eric Siddall wrote this post for the L.A. Association of Deputy District Attorneys about the testimony in support of the bill.

Turns out the "facts" of the "poster child" case are fabricated.  Imagine that.
...we are swimming in dangerous waters.  

I have been unable to think of any reason beyond political assistance to the Attorney General's preferred candidate that Loretta Lynch told the head of the FBI not to call the Bureau's email investigation what is was  --  an investigation.


This was partisan behavior by the sitting head of the Justice Department intended to influence the outcome of the presidential election.  Oddly, I haven't heard any of those currently outraged say beans about it.

I might add that it's not clear whether Ms. Lynch gave this instruction before or after her closeted, tarmac meeting with her candidate's wealthy and well-connected spouse.  I haven't heard too much about that, either.  I wonder how long I should wait for a five-part series in the New York Times.




Prosecutors are generally elected locally in this country, and the races are typically not big-money campaigns.  Donors are typically local. In the past couple of years, though, criminal-friendly billionaire George Soros has been pumping big money into these little races, with appalling results.

In the Orlando, Florida area, he bankrolled the successful challenge of Aramis Ayala.  See this story by Elyssa Cherney in the Orlando Sentinel last August. After the election, not before, Ms. Ayala announced that she was effectively imposing her own personal moratorium on the death penalty in her jurisdiction, causing Governor Scott to remove her from a case.  See this post.

Now we have Philadelphia.  Scott Calvert reported last week in the WSJ:

Philadelphia defense lawyer Larry Krasner has made a career of standing up to law enforcement. Now he is now poised to be the city's top prosecutor.

Mr. Krasner, a self-proclaimed progressive who has filed 75 civil-rights lawsuits in his 30-year career and represented Black Lives Matter activists, won the Democratic primary for district attorney last month. His win--with 38% of the vote, nearly double his nearest rival--was fueled by strong support from African-American voters and a $1.5 million ad blitz from billionaire investor George Soros.
People who care about law enforcement are understandably alarmed.  "Eleven former city prosecutors signed an editorial ahead of the primary, warning that Mr. Krasner was a 'dangerous' candidate gaining 'a foothold thanks to money from a European billionaire.' "
This unhinged.  From the formerly respectable Above the Law:

My anti-Trump, #NeverTrump, #NotNormal bona fides are strong. I wanted Congressional Democrats to draw up impeachment charges before he even took office. I'm also NOT one of these "but Mike Pence would be worse" people. Pence is a problem, but one that exists within normal parameters of political problems. Trump is a cancer who needs to be irradiated from our body politic, and I truly don't give a damn how many "healthy" cells have to go down with him.

But if I could only take one scalp right now, the first one I'd take is Jeff Sessions. Not Trump, not Steve Bannon -- those muppets are here to put white males "back on top." The flaw in their plans is that white men are already on top, and they've been there for 400 years and counting in the New World. Trump and Bannon's false narrative that the white man is "losing" means that they don't really know what to do with all the power they've amassed. How do you win a game you've already won?

Jeff Sessions is not just here for the glory of white males, he's here for the oppression of others.

This has zip to do with manufactured ethics questions.  It's purely the product of race-huckstering hate  --  the Black Panthers with a pound of snark. 

Questions Asked Now, But Ignored Then

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Four senators closely identified with the "sentencing reform" movement have written the Attorney General, questioning his recent decision ordinarily to require federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious readily provable offense.The letter is reproduced here, in the press release of one of its signatories, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

I might have a more detailed response to this letter in a bit, but for right now, I have some questions of my own.

1.  Why should prosecutors, whose main duty is to enforce the laws as Congress wrote them, charge the defendant with anything other than what he actually did? Isn't honesty the paramount value we seek in public servants?

2.  Why do pro-"reform" senators want the executive branch to, in effect, legislate the "reform" agenda for them through massaged charging policies?  (Hint:  Because they can't get it through a wised-up Congress, so they want a work-around.  Whether the Constitution provides for executive branch "work-arounds" of Congress is not among the questions in which they seem interested).

3.  Why is it proper for prosecutors intentionally to withhold highly relevant information from the indictment (such as the amount of drugs the defendant is peddling)?  Don't we value prosecutors who are fully candid with the court from the getgo?

4.  Why is it wrong to have to explain in writing the reasons for seeking exceptions in favor of leniency?  Isn't more reflection, accountability and transparency what we want from prosecutors?

5.  Why wasn't this letter written to Attorney General Holder, who used an identical charging policy for three-quarters of his tenure heading the Justice Department?
The Wall Street Journal is carrying a story that Attorney General Sessions offered to resign .  It begins:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign from his post in recent weeks, amid tension with President Donald Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter....

Mr. Trump's displeasure with Mr. Sessions appears to trace back to the attorney general's decision in March to remove himself from involvement in any Justice Department investigation related to the 2016 presidential race, following the disclosure that he had conversations with a Russian official while advising the Trump campaign. That contact appeared at odds with testimony he gave during his confirmation hearing.

Three observations.  First, I have no idea whether this story is true.  Second, Sessions' Senate testimony was truthful in every respect, and is sometimes made to appear dishonest only by omitting the the specific questions he was answering (as I explained here).

Third, remember when Sessions' opponents were claiming he could not be sufficiently independent from the President?  That he would be a shill, a puppet?  

Yes, well, someone was playing games with the truth, but it wasn't Jeff Sessions.

Why Sentencing Reform Tanked

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The estimable Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has this entry about what is to him, and others who sought the mass sentencing reductions they call "sentencing reform," bad news.

The news is that their proposals are still on the ocean floor.

The reason for this fact is, however, different from the one put forward in the article Doug cites.
Far too often, people run to the courts claiming that some action of the executive or legislative branch is unconstitutional when their basis is really nothing more than strong disagreement with the merits of the decision.  It is refreshing to see a recognition of the important difference in this editorial in the WaPo.

Much as we find Mr. Trump's travel ban offensive, imprudent and unwise; much as we believe it inflicts real harm not just on America's foreign policy objectives but also on families, communities and institutions in the United States, it's fair to wonder whether it really amounts to an attack on Islam and an affront to the Constitution.
That's a step in the right direction, but understated.  There is no need to wonder.  The order is well within the President's legal and constitutional authority, as I have explained previously on this blog.  Of course the Post is entitled to its opinion on the wisdom of the policy, which I won't get into here.  We should give credit where it is due for seeing the difference between "offensive" and "unconstitutional," a difference too seldom recognized.

A Welcome Change

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has this post with the above title:

As the nation gets ready for Memorial Day, a day to remember the people who died while serving in the nation's armed forces, the past week signaled a welcome change in attitude towards law enforcement from the highest leadership in the nation. From the symbolic act of lighting the White House in blue during that week to an executive action directing a review of federal law that could lead to legislation making it a federal crime to attack law enforcement officers, there has been a sea of change in support for law enforcement.
 
Under the prior administration, law enforcement was often in the crosshairs of a rush to judgment. The pattern that started from the first days with the knee jerk condemnation of Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley for "acting stupidly," and continued non-stop with the invitation to the White House of a rapper who had a song dedicated to a fugitive cop killer, or using a police memorial service to defend anti-police protestors and lecture on criminal justice "reform" and gun control. 
Kent noted today's travel ban case, decided in an opinion written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the Fourth Circuit.

There is an interesting story about how Judge Gregory got his job.  It contains a warning for Republicans.

They'll Say Anything, Part Ten Zillion

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The Brennan Center is a far left organization that occasionally tells us the truth, as it did in revealing the extent of the murder spike over the last two years:  "With violence at historic lows, modest increases in the murder rate may appear large in percentage terms. Similarly, murder rates in the 30 largest cities increased by 13.2 percent in 2015 and an estimated 14 percent in 2016."

Oh, OK. That would be that, in our 30 largest cities, murder has increased by more than a quarter in the last two years  --  the biggest spike over the shortest time in American history.

But the Brennan Center is undeterred.

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