Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is letting the nomination of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy U.S. Attorney General advance after he was briefed by FBI Director James Comey on the ongoing Russia probe.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is letting the nomination of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy U.S. Attorney General advance after refusing to schedule a vote because he had not received sufficient information on the ongoing Russia probe, Politico reports. The committee will take up the nomination Monday. Grassley had complained the administration was stonewalling his requests for more information and said he would not schedule a vote for Rosenstein until he was briefed by the FBI. Grassley and the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, were briefed by FBI Director James Comey last week. The administration has either provided — or agreed to hand over — key documents related to the Russia probe to the committee.
The panel will probably vote on Rosenstein’s nomination the week of April 3. Some Democrats have vowed to slow down Rosenstein’s confirmation unless he promised to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from probes related to the Trump campaign, Rosenstein would take over the Russia investigation if he is confirmed.
Former National Institute of Justice director John Laub and other academic leaders want “to ensure that DOJ does not slip backwards and continues to use science and evidence with respect to policies regarding crime and justice.”
Twenty-five former presidents of the American Society of Criminology, worried that science may take a backseat in the Trump administration’s Justice Department, have sent President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions a letter titled, “Keep Science in the Department of Justice,” the Washington Post reports. Co-authors John Laub of the University of Maryland and Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said they hoped that politics didn’t intrude on the science-based approach that the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has fostered in recent years, while both agencies await the appointment of new directors.
Laub, who headed NIJ from 2010 to 2013, said that as the first director in the agency’s 40-year history with a Ph.D, in criminology, he wants “to ensure that DOJ does not slip backwards and continues to use science and evidence with respect to policies regarding crime and justice.” Rosenfeld said, “What we’re trying to do is institutionalize a scientific ethos in the Justice Department, which traditionally has been run, reasonably enough, by a lawyers’ culture. The NIJ and the Bureau of Justice Statistics are very very important agencies and we want to make sure they remain scientific agencies, not politicized.” The Justice Department created a Science Advisory Board in 2010 to assess the effectiveness of policing programs, much of which can be seen at crimesolutions.gov.
The President wants to increase spending on anticrime programs, immigration enforcement, and fighting cyberthreats, but it’s not yet clear what he would cut at the Justice Department to fund those efforts.
In President Trump’s first proposed federal budget, the Justice Department’s $27.7 billion reflects Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s priorities of being tough on crime and cracking down on illegal immigration, with millions of additional dollars going toward fighting violent crime and increasing the number of immigration judges and lawyers working on border security, the Washington Post reports. The proposal indicates that Justice officials could withhold grants or other funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, but it did not specify which programs could be affected.
The FBI will receive a 3 percent increase, of $249 million, including $61 million more to fight terrorism and combat foreign intelligence and cyberthreats, $31 million for biometric research, and $9 million for firearms-purchase background checks and violent crime data. The Justice Department is asking for $175 million more to target “the worst of the worst” criminal organizations and drug traffickers. It seeks $80 million more to hire 75 additional immigration judge teams to adjudicate removal proceedings. The department total would be a reduction of $1 billion, or 3.8 percent, from last year’s budget. The department wants to eliminate about $700 million in unspecified “outdated programs.” One of them, which federal officials have tried to eliminate for many years, reimburses state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants. About $1 billion would be saved this year in federal prison construction spending because of the 14 percent decrease in the prison population since 2013. Today’s budget was not an item-by-item listing, so it was impossible to determine other changes in the DOJ budget that the Trump administration will seek.
“We need more of everything,” says a police union official. President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have repeatedly talked about supporting police, but they have yet to offer new money for crime-fighting, especially in the face of Trump’s plan to slash nonmilitary budgets.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is promising that his Justice Department will lead the charge in helping cities fight violent crime, and police chiefs are ready with their wish-lists, the Associated Press reports. They include more technology to trace guns after shootings, more grant money, more intelligence analysts to help dismantle gangs, more protective gear and equipment. As the head of one police officers’ union put it, “We need more of everything.” Sessions has inherited a federal government that built itself to fight terrorism since 9/11 and, more recently, to combat cybercrime. Sessions has spoken repeatedly about a spike in murders. He and President Trump ordered the creation of a crime-fighting task force, bringing together the heads of the major law enforcement agencies. They have yet to offer new money for crime-fighting, especially in the face of Trump’s plan to slash nonmilitary budgets. “He’ll find out very quickly that you can’t pull people off all these other things just to go do that,” said Robert Anderson, the FBI’s most senior criminal investigator until his retirement in 2015.
In Milwaukee, Police Chief Edward Flynn said he would like an expansion of the work done in that city by the Justice Department’s Violence Reduction Network. In Baltimore, which recorded 318 homicides last year, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has said he would like federal agencies to double the number of agents assigned to cities experiencing spikes in violence. In contrast, the Obama administration’s Justice Department focused its aid to local police on improving community relations. “At the end of the day, crime is a state and local concern,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “However, what police chiefs say is the federal government does have a responsibility, particularly when they prosecute.”
Lock up as many drug dealers and traffickers as possible, for as long as possible, and violent crime will subside, maintains Tennessee federal prosecutor Steve Cook, named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to a key Justice Department position.
Steve Cook, president of the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, has been named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the associate deputy attorney general with a mandate to focus on violent crime. In that job, which does not require Senate confirmation, Cook is the top federal official working full-time on implementing President Trump’s vow to curb “carnage” in U.S. cities, reports The Trace. Last year, Cook took part in a podcast hosted by Frank Gaffney, a conservative conspiracy theorist. Cook, 61, who was also chief of the Criminal Division for the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, was there to talk about his opposition to federal criminal justice reform legislation that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes.
At one point on the program, Gaffney asserted that Obama’s use of his clemency power to commute the sentences of nonviolent federal prisoners freed “people who have been converted in prison to, not just to Islam, but to jihad.” There is no evidence that anyone whose sentence was commuted by Obama engaged in terrorism, but Cook did not correct his host. Like Sessions, Cook is a fierce proponent of the crime-fighting theory that is responsible for our current era of mass incarceration. Lock up as many drug dealers and traffickers as possible, for as long as possible, and violent crime will subside, he maintains. “When you put criminals in jail, crime goes down,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “That’s what incapacitation is designed to do, and it works.” Sentencing reform advocates greeted Cook’s appointment with alarm. “We were all kind of like shocked. Like ‘Oh no, not him,’” said Debi Campbell of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “It’s actually kind of scary.”
Zachary Fardon, one of the U.S. Attorneys fired by President Trump, expressed a deep frustration with the entrenched nature of Chicago violence, which last year increased to levels unseen in two decades even though Fardon made it his top priority from the moment he took the reins in 2013.
Hours after he abruptly resigned as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, Zachary Fardon issued a fiery open letter urging the city and U.S. Justice Department to push through a consent decree for sweeping changes at the Chicago Police Department, reports the Chicago Tribune. The letter called for federal and local police to “flood” neighborhoods afflicted by rampant gang crime and labeled social media as what’s driving “the virus of gun play” among young people. Fardon expressed a deep frustration with the entrenched nature of the violence, which last year increased to levels unseen in two decades even though Fardon made it his office’s top priority from the moment he took the reins in October 2013. “At no moment during those three and a half years did the gun violence abate,” he wrote. “Every month, every year, innocents died, kids died.”
Fardon and other U.S. Attorneys were asked to submit his resignation Friday by Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente. The selection process for a new nominee traditionally has been headed by the senior member of the congressional delegation from the president’s party — currently Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville, near St. Louis. The search that led to Fardon’s selection included a committee that spent months developing a list of finalists that was then forwarded to the state’s two senators — Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and then-Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican. It’s not clear if the Trump administration will adhere to that procedure.
in Baton Rouge, local law enforcement officials pleaded with Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave in place Walt Green, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, citing his efforts fighting violent crime. Green was fired anyway. Sessions allowed two U.S. Attorneys to stay in office for a few more months to be eligible for retirement benefits.
Th departure of 46 U.S. Attorneys who were asked to resign Friday could substantially affect the law enforcement priorities of the offices they ran, the Washington Post reports. Although individual cases and investigations are likely to press on no matter who heads each U.S. attorney’s office, their enforcement priorities could change depending on who is at the top. Kenneth Polite, the U.S. attorney in New Orleans, increased the number of prosecutors handling violent crime and established a public integrity unit. His successor may have other ideas. In Baton Rouge, local law enforcement officials pleaded with Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave in place Walt Green, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, citing his efforts fighting violent crime.
A Marine who served two tours in Iraq, Green created several crime-fighting units that have led to a 16 percent drop in homicides and a 22 percent reduction in violent crime since 2012, the officials said. Green resigned. Those removed included Barbara McQuade, who served 12 years as a federal prosecutor in Detroit before becoming U.S. attorney. Another prosecutor asked to step down was John Vaudreuil, who until Friday was the U.S. attorney in Madison, Wi. Vaudreuil has been to more than 25 countries on behalf of the department, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Russia, supporting democracy-building efforts. “We talk about the rule of law and how we do things in a free country,” said Vaudreuil, 62. “To me, that’s a good way to fight terrorism.” Richard Hartunian had been an assistant U.S. attorney 13 years before being appointed U.S. attorney in Albany, N.Y. Hartunian is three months from retirement. Yesterday, Sessions agreed to let Hartunian stay on through June so he could complete his 20 years. Sessions did the same for Deirdre Daly, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who will complete 20 years of service in October.
By demanding to be fired, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara made himself a martyr, but a martyr for what?, asks Jack Shafer of Politico. Not every reporter bought into Bharara’s martyrdom line.
The news media took part in a “canonization” of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, who insisted that President Trump fire him after refusing to resign, writes Jack Shafer in Politico. The Associated Press quoted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as tweeting that Bharara was “a fearless prosecutor who stands up to both parties and Wall Street,” and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was widely quoted as calling Bharara an “exemplary U.S. Attorney.” The New York Times acknowledged that Bharara had been accused by one appeals court of “overreach” and had a way with ginning up publicity for his investigations. The Times recounted that when Bharara was asked, “What again is your jurisdiction, exactly?” His answer was, “Are you familiar with Earth?”
By demanding to be fired, Bharara made himself a martyr, but a martyr for what?, Shafer asks. The independence that Bharara imagines is, as the historical record tells us, provisional, so he’s a fool to martyr himself in its honor. Not every reporter bought into Bharara’s martyrdom line. Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica judged his Wall Street investigations as “less aggressive” than his ones against political corruption. On Wall Street, Bharara went after hedge funds, which are “safer targets” than the giant banks. “Insider trading cases,” a Bharara specialty, “are relatively easy to win and don’t address systemic abuses that helped bring down the financial system,” ProPublica said.
Those involved in the Justice Department probes defend them. Jonathan Smith, who headed the DOJ civil-rights division special litigation unit from 2010 to 2015, said the Obama administration investigations were extremely thorough and showed that there were widespread problems in policing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks that his Justice Department will “pull back” on federal probes of police departments accused of violating civil rights of minorities reignited a debate over the effectiveness of federal intervention with local law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reports. The decision was welcomed by some law-enforcement and city officials, who have pushed back against DOJ involvement in their departments, citing high costs of implementing the changes and an aversion to federal interference in local law enforcement. Activists and minority communities are concerned that they will have fewer avenues for recourse if they experience unfair treatment at the hands of police. The Justice Department investigations, they say, gave support to their complaints that they were targeted by police illegally.
The Obama administration investigated a record 25 law-enforcement agencies, ending in 15 court-enforced agreements, or consent decrees, to make changes aimed at eliminating excessive force and what the Justice Department alleged was departments’ systemic racial bias. Among departments that agreed to improve training and police oversight, and to treat minorities more fairly, were Ferguson, Mo., where the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown set off nationwide protests, and Cleveland, where 13 officers in 2012 fired 137 shots into a car at the end of a police chase, killing an unarmed black couple. Jonathan Smith, who headed the Justice Department’s civil-rights division special litigation unit from 2010 to 2015, said the Obama administration probes were extremely thorough and showed that there were widespread problems in policing. Jim Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest U.S. police-labor organization, said some sanctions imposed on police as a result of the agreements “made it far more difficult for police to do their jobs.” Officers may become less aggressive in fighting crime immediately after consent decrees, but not in the long term, says University of Alabama law Prof. Stephen Rushin. “I do not think there is necessarily a trade-off long-term between constitutional policing and crime prevention,” he said. “Our best guess is that the de-policing effect of federal intervention is temporary, until the new policies and procedures become routinized.”
Those dismissed included Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, who had said President-elect Trump had asked him in November to stay on. Bharara was fired on Saturday after declining to resign.
The Trump administration ordered 46 holdover U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations immediately, including Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, the New York Times reports. The firings were a surprise, especially for Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, he met with President-elect Trump and told reporters that both Trump and Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on. (Bharara said he was fired after declining to resign.) Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said, “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
The abrupt order came after two weeks of increasing calls from Trump’s allies outside the government to oust appointees from President Obama’s administration. Sean Hannity, a Fox News commentator who is a strong Trump supporter, said Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Trump. Several prosecutors were told to leave by the end of Friday. The abrupt nature of the dismissals distinguished Trump’s mass firing from a similar one in 1993 under Attorney General Janet Reno. The prosecutors in 1993 were not summarily told to clear out their offices.