As facts, in both the traditional and alternative sense, continue to pile up regarding communications between Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and his repeated contacts (originally explained as a lack thereof) with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, the first swirls of an actual crime committed by someone in Trump’s inner circle viz. Russia are visible.
So, in the spirit of own goals, hoisted petards and such, Jeff Sessions should be thoroughly and immediately subject to civil asset forfeiture–and any concomitant material poverty–as soon as possible. In other words, since the attorney general is now suspected of committing a crime–perjury–during his confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, D.C. police should quickly seize all of his property and cash.
A bit of perspective:
Civil asset forfeiture is the way police departments across the United States have been able to keep themselves flush with cash, gadgets and military-grade hardware for the past 40 years or so. No coincidence: the trend towards ever-increasing use of the procedure roughly tracks with the timeline of the failed War on Drugs.
But what exactly is civil asset forfeiture? It’s an eventually-unconstitutional method used by state and local police departments to take peoples’ money and/or property simply because they’ve been suspected of a crime or because it’s suspected that said money or property has some connection (however tenuous) with criminal activity. The ACLU notes:
“Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.
Forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources. But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting. For people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and expensive, with costs sometimes exceeding the value of the property.”
According to the Institute for Justice, two dozen states have reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws by making it more difficult to use the controversial procedure–fourteen of which require criminal convictions in most cases. Three states have outlawed civil forfeiture entirely. But cops in large numbers are crafty.
Using the “adoption” loophole, local and state police departments simply had to ask the DEA to step in and perform the civil forfeiture in return for a cut of the proceeds. It’s a great scam for stripping people who can’t afford to defend themselves of their belongings in order to keep cops well-fed and feds in furs, but tales of its abuse reached the right ears, so, in 2015, then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive to close the adoption loophole.
Of course, that loophole-closure had its own loopholes and Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) actively undermined his own policy by collaborating with local and state law enforcement, but the headlines looked good for the Obama administration and, in any event, it was a tiny step in the right direction–but that tiny step has now been erased.
Last week, Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era policy because Jeff Sessions wants cops to have any-and-everything they desire without having to muck about with things like due process or criminal convictions. His decision was met with widespread disdain across the political spectrum.
The change in rules was outlined via DOJ Policy Directive 17-1 which reads, in relevant part:
“Under the Attorney General’s Order, federal adoption of all types of assets seized lawfully by state or local law enforcement under their respective state laws is authorized whenever the conduct giving rise to the seizure violates federal law.”
Which brings us back to Jeff.
All the evidence points to perjury–Sessions’ own senior moments notwithstanding. The attorney general himself may not be able to recollect the meetings or what was discussed, but Kislyak appears able to do exactly that.
What’s being called for here isn’t close to radical: police departments do it to people we never hear about every single day and Sessions is clamoring for more civil asset forfeiture, not less. Nor is it particularly modest; asking the state to use its monopoly on violence in order to effectively rob someone without due process of law is inimical to any known concept of liberty.
But if due process isn’t good enough for the nation at large, what’s so special about the nation’s top attorney?
[image via screengrab]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.