Deputy AG backs Sessions' tough on crime policy

Deputy AG backs Sessions' tough on crime policy
© Greg Nash

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is defending his boss’s decision to crack down on drug crimes.

In an op-ed for San Francisco Chronicle late last week, Rosenstein said Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMadeleine Albright slams Trump over immigration New Hampshire GOP gov: I won’t send National Guard troops to ‘separate families’ Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council MORE has ordered federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible to reduce crime.

“It does not aim to fill prisons with low-level drug offenders,” he wrote of the new policy. “It empowers prosecutors to help save lives.”

The memo Sessions sent in May instructed federal prosecutors to “pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” that by definition “carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimums.”

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The orders represented a drastic shift from those given under the Obama administration, but Rosenstein argued they were in no way new.

He said Sessions reinstituted a policy first implemented by President Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti.

“From 2013 to 2017, however, the U.S. Department of Justice protected some criminals from mandatory minimum sentence laws enacted by Congress,” he wrote, referring to former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderUS law is not on the side of Mueller's appointment as special counsel Holder redistricting group backs lawsuits for 3 additional majority-black congressional districts Liberal groups launches ads against prospective Trump Supreme Court nominees MORE's order in 2013 urging federal prosecutors to be more lenient with nonviolent low level drug offenders and reserve the harshest charges for violent criminals and the leaders of drug cartels.

Though the total number of drug dealers charged annually by federal prosecutors has fallen, Rosenstein claims drug-related violence has surged and hefty sentences are needed to dismantle violent drug gangs.

“Used wisely, federal charges with stiff penalties enable U.S. attorneys to secure the cooperation of gang members, remove repeat offenders from the community and deter other criminals from taking their places,” he wrote.