Trump Administration In Crisis Targets Leaks, Threatens Media Freedom

Screen shot of C-SPAN broadcast of Department of Justice briefing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on "culture of leaking"

By Kevin Gosztola for Shadowproof. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an aggressive supporter of anti-leaks policies, indicated the insider threat task force within the government would refine policies to promote tighter control over government information. Intelligence agencies would refer more cases to the Justice Department, and the Justice Department would investigate more leaks. “This nation must end this culture of leaks. We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice. We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country. These cases, to investigate and prosecute, are never easy. But cases will be made, and leakers will be held accountable.” Sessions proclaimed. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was prosecuted for a leak and jailed by President Obama’s administration, reacted, “These are not national security leaks. These are leaks that are embarrassing to the president personally, but they have nothing to do with national security. It’s not intelligence-related if the president has an argument with the prime minister of Australia and then rudely terminates his phone call.” On one level, this may be viewed as a pledge to sharply escalate a crackdown on leaks. But there is also ample evidence to argue this merely continues a policy wholly embraced by the Obama administration.

As Sessions Promises Drug War Escalation, Listen To Drug War Prisoners

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By Doran Larson for The Conversation – Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a return to a pre-Obama policy of seeking maximum penalties for all drug crimes, including low-level, nonviolent offenses. Criticism from politicians, criminologists, lawyers and others was swift and unambiguous. Based on a discredited belief in a zero-sum relationship between crime and incarceration rates, the thinking behind this policy was called “one-dimensional,” “archaic,” “misguided” and “dumb.” America’s unprecedented attempt to jail its way out of crime long ago passed the point of diminishing returns. Drug trafficking in particular sees a replacement effect: Removing one drug seller simply makes room for another (often accompanied by a violent reshuffling of territories). Excessive incarceration can also damage communities and can actually make an individual more, not less, likely to reoffend. I have been facilitating a writing workshop inside Attica Correctional Facility since 2006. For the past eight years, I have solicited, collected, helped publish and digitally disseminated the first-person writing of incarcerated Americans. Those on the receiving end of the attorney general’s misguided policy will naturally feel his words more deeply than others. The writers among them will be burdened with responsibility to make those feelings known.

In Rebuke To Sessions, Senate Committee OKs Medical Marijuana Protections

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By Bruce Barcott for Leafly – The Senate Appropriations approved an amendment to protect state medical marijuana patients this morning, delivering a setback to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In May, Sessions delivered a letter to Congress specifically requesting that leaders reject that budget amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. The amendment, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), passed in a voice vote with strong Republican support. During the hearing, Leahy said this in support of the amendment: “29 states and the District of Columbia have decided it’s more humane to regulate medical marijuana than to criminalize it. Almost every state—46 right now, and counting—regulate the use of a marijuana derivative that is used to treat epilepsy and other rare medical conditions. I think just about every member on this committee represents a state with patients who would be protected under this amendment. The federal government can’t investigate everything. And shouldn’t. And I don’t want them spending money pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law, whether they’re an epileptic or whatever they might be.”

D.C. Judge Tossed Out Conviction Of Woman Arrested After Laughing During Sessions’ Senate Confirmation Hearing

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By Ryan J. Reilly for The Huffington P0st – WASHINGTON ― A D.C. judge has tossed out a jury’s conviction of a protester who laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing, finding on Friday that the government had improperly argued during the trial that her laughter was enough to merit a guilty verdict. The judge ordered a new trial in the case, setting a court date for Sept. 1. Desiree Fairooz, 61, who was associated with the group Code Pink, had been convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct and demonstrating inside the Capitol. Fairooz was taken into custody during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January after she laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) claimed Sessions had a “clear and well-documented” record of “treating all Americans equally under the law.” (The Senate rejected Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in the 1980s over concerns about his views on race.) But Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia tossed out the guilty verdict on Friday because the government had argued that the laugh alone was enough to warrant the verdict. Morin said it was “disconcerting” that the government made the case in closing arguments that the laughter in and of itself was sufficient.

Jeff Sessions Eyes Crackdown On Medical Marijuana, But Federal Policy Remains Unclear

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By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – The Trump administration’s policy toward legal marijuana began to emerge from the fog this week, and it appears that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his underlings remain more interested in orchestrating law enforcement crackdowns than in the current scientific understanding of cannabis. Sessions wants greater freedom to prosecute medical marijuana businesses and patients in states where the drug is a legal medicine. Federal authorities allege that “dangerous drug traffickers” and international “criminal organizations” cultivate marijuana under state medical marijuana laws and sell it in states where the drug is still illegal, according to a May 1 letter from Sessions to members of Congress obtained this week by the Massroots.com and The Washington Post. Sessions’ assistant attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told members of Congress on Tuesday that the Department of Justice would continue a policy on state-legal marijuana adopted in 2013 by the Obama administration, at least for the near future. That policy, as laid out in 2013 by the famous Cole memo, has allowed recreational and medical marijuana businesses to operate in states where legalization has taken hold, despite ongoing federal prohibition.

More Dangerous Than Trump

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions, San Diego, April 21, 2017

By David Cole for NYR Daily – Tangled in self-inflicted chaos, President Donald Trump has been unable to accomplish much during his first four months in office. His signature executive orders have been stymied by the courts; his legislative efforts have stalled; and now he faces a special counsel investigating him over the Russia affair. But Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is another story. 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. Sessions has been especially focused, and particularly retrograde, on criminal justice. In the Senate, he was to the right of most of his own party…

Jeff Sessions’ Department Of Injustice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about immigration, in Washington, DC, March 27, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

By Marjorie Cohn for Truthout – Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons. Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.” Sessions and Trump tout the existence of what the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School calls a “phantom crime wave.” While this administration scaremongers about high crime rates, in reality, national crime and murder rates are at a near-historic low: 50 percent less than they were at their peak in 1991. Trump’s campaign mantra was “law and order,” a euphemism for tolerating excessive force by police officers, often against people of color.

Jeff Sessions Doubled Down On Immoral, Racist, And Counterproductive War On Drugs

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By Udi Ofer for ACLU – So when most Americans learned that the incarceration rate in the United States began to decrease and that overall crime rates were at historic lows, they cheered the news. Advocates on the right and left called it a good beginning, the dawning of a new era of a smarter and more equitable criminal justice system, while at that same time recognizing that there is much more work to be done. President Donald Trump and his attorney general don’t like this new direction, and they’re doing everything in their power to paint a disturbing and even apocalyptic vision of America — one that is now being used to justify draconian policies that will lead to more Americans in prison. Listening to Attorney General Sessions and to President Trump, you would think that America is living through a crisis of crime. Sessions constantly talks about a crime epidemic, selectively using statistics in a way that is misleading, and sometimes even outright lying. In his swearing in, Attorney General Sessions talked about a “dangerous permanent trend” of increasing crime. Yet that was a lie. There is no evidence of a national crime wave, as right now we’re living at a time when the crime rate is historically low.

Jeff Sessions Orders Harsher Sentences, Taking U.S. Policy Back To 1980s

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By Elisabeth Garber-Paul for Rolling Stone – On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo ordering Justice Department staff to charge criminal suspects – specifically low-level, non-violent drug offenders – with the most severe crime possible and pursue the toughest sentences allowed, rolling back progress made under the Obama administration. The two-page memo, released to the public Friday morning, requires federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against suspects. “It is core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” he wrote. “This policy confirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency.” This rolls back the 2013 directive from former AG Eric Holder, known as the Holder Memo, which advised federal prosecutors to use their discretion when building a case against non-violent drug offenders, as a way to reserve harsh mandatory minimum sentences only for violent or high-level drug crimes. Under the new order, there is still room for prosecutors to decide to pursue less severe charges – but those decisions must be cleared with Sessions’ office, which presumably will be a difficult process.

Jury Convicts Woman Who Laughed At Jeff Sessions During Senate Hearing

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By Ryan J. Reilly for The Huffington Post – WASHINGTON ― A jury convicted a woman on Wednesday who was arrested during a congressional hearing in January after laughing at the claim that now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a record of treating Americans equally. Desiree Fairooz, an activist associated with the organization Code Pink, was found guilty on two counts: one for engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings and a separate count for parading, demonstrating or picketing. Several jurors who spoke with HuffPost after the verdict emphasized that they were focused on Fairooz’s actions after a rookie Capitol Police officer approached Fairooz when she laughed at Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) claim that Sessions had a clear, well-documented and “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law.” A group of jurors spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity. “She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave,” the jury foreperson said.

Sessions Orders DOJ To Review Police Reform Agreements

In March 27 Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

By Sari Horwitz, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery for The Washington Post – Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime. In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.

Twenty-Six Arrested At Sessions Confirmation Hearing

Men dressed up as KKK members jumped out of their seats at Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General confirmation hearing. (ANDREW HARNIK/AP)

By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. A total of 26 protesters were arrested today in opposition to Jeff Sessions, including members of Refuse Fascism, the NAACP, Democracy Spring, Code Pink, and Howard University, according to Refuse Fascism. The group is calling for millions to pour into the streets of DC to prevent Trump and Pence from assuming power. The protests began even before confirmation hearings officially began. Two CODE PINK members dressed in KKK costumes stood up before the hearing was gaveled to express their support for Sessions. They praised “Jefferson Beauregard” and as they were taken from the room they yelled mockingly “you can’t arrest me, I am white!” and “white people own this government.” In the hall as they were being detained they explained that Sessions history on racism, immigration, LGBTQ rights and sexism made him inappropriate to serve as attorney general.

Trump’s Pick For Attorney General Could Be Big Boost To Monsanto

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By Lorraine Chow for Ecowatch. Investopedia reports that Monsanto stocks have risen more than 4 percent since Trump’s surprise victory. Additionally, Terry Haines of the investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI said that the president-elect’s nominee for attorney general—Sen. Jeff Sessions, a pro-business conservative from Alabama—is good news for any pending mega-deals.

Does Jeff Sessions At DOJ Signal Death Of Police Reform?

Jeff Sessions with Donald Trump

By Adeshina Emmanuel for In These Times. President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions (R – AL), a longtime ally, to become his attorney general. Sessions is known as an immigration hard-liner with an alleged history of racist remarks and actions, sparking fears that his confirmation could mean major changes at the Department of Justice (DOJ)—especially as it relates to communities of color. “I would hope the folks who have been activists around police reform, who have built an important and effective movement, will see this as a moment where that movement needs to get bigger,” says Jonathan Smith, former DOJ official. Activists concur, but not just because of the potential shifts in the DOJ. Master notes that Trump’s presidency has emboldened proponents of white supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S. She says that means activists from marginalized groups have to change their approach, bolster their bases and collaborate more with one another. “Trump’s regime … doesn’t stop our work,” says Samantha Miller, a Baltimore area organizer.. “It makes it more pressing.”