Though his tenure as Attorney General is consistently being forecast as over any time now, and the number 45-POTUS regularly insults him on Twitter, Mr. Jeff B. Sessions has been having a field day rolling back criminal justice reforms and civil rights protections initiated or championed by the previous Obama administration. In effect, Mr. Sessions has become the most Trump-like of the Trumpites, even surpassing the zeal and de-regulatory ardor of EPA director Scott Pruitt. The latter has had many of his successes diminished by his continued financial and judgement scandals. A host of critics are more than ready for both Sessions and Pruitt to depart the White House.
According to a recent issue of TIME Magazine, Mr. Sessions has radically shifted the orientation of the U.S. Justice Department from oversight of the nation’s police departments and their unequal treatment of Black citizens (he has rescinded as many of the Obama-era consent decrees as possible), drastically pulled back from federal court challenges to support civil rights enforcement and re-instituted the failed War on Drugs. He has repeatedly said that the key to bringing this country better progress against gangs and immigration violations is through more vigorous arrests and prosecutions.
Any police reforms that favor negotiations and community policing are to be rejected, according to Sessions. No more reforms in sentencing and punishment. To Sessions, the aim is to arrest and punish more, not less. He has advocated the expansion of private and public prisons and championed the cause of outfitting police departments across the country with more military-styled weapons and equipment. Under Sessions, there will be no attempt at rectifying inequities in the criminal-justice system, and there is now open season on state attempts at reducing, if not outright nullifying, the voting rights of non-White citizens, with federal government support.
He has been stolidly in favor of punishing immigrants and destroying the will of states like California that have provided sanctuary legal status to undocumented immigrants. With Jeff Sessions, it is as if old Senator Strom Thurmond has returned from the KKK-graveyard to run the federal justice system.
African American legal rights in the USA are definitely endangered with Mr. Sessions in charge, and the damage Sessions is inflicting on the concept “equal protection of the law” will be hard to reverse, even after Sessions is no longer in charge. Senator Corey Booker, who famously challenged Sessions during confirmation hearings about being a “racist” who would not advance American law enforcement even-handedly, was apparently correct in that assessment.
Many Americans are now waiting anxiously for the Mueller Report on the investigations into obstruction and collusion (conspiracy) among the Trump campaign and transition teams, and hoping that will lead to impeachment and removal of the POTUS from office. A lot of that anxiety should also be focused on how to get rid of Jeff Sessions, who is doing a yeoman’s job of moving this country backwards regarding legal protections for all Americans.
Sometimes, it is not just the problem you see clearly, it is also what is lurking behind the curtain in the shadows, that endangers you the most.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.