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 SessionsSessions defends Trump’s power to pardon without consulting Justice Dept GOP senator: 'We were there' on immigration before talks got derailed Sessions defends census citizenship question as 'common sense' 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 HolderComey's book tour is all about 'truth' — but his FBI tenure, not so much James Comey and Andrew McCabe: You read, you decide Eric Holder headed to New Hampshire for high-profile event 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.