Attorney General Jeff Sessions, having been thrown under the bus by Donald Trump, has clearly run out of fucks to give, and so now he’s not only reviving the feel-good anti-drug program that convinced kids to take drugs, not only directing fed cops to arrest people who take weed in states where it’s legal — he’s also calling for more civil asset forfeiture, that being the polite name for the widespread, illegal practice of cops stealing your stuff and selling it off to fund off-the-books spending on surveillance gear and other goodies.
Forfeiture is so manifestly corrupt that state after state after state put the brakes on it, until, finally, Obama’s AG defunded the DoJ program that instigated some of the most egregious examples.
It’s really impossible to overstate how corrupt and offensive forfeiture is. Put it this way: using forfeiture rules, cops stole more from Americans than burglars, targeting poor people, stealing prepaid store-cards, bribing low-level travel industry employees to identify travelers who carried cash so they could be robbed, too. In NYC, the largest police force in the country stole so much they said they couldn’t count it all without breaking their computers. In DC, cops budgets years in advance for the income they planned to receive through stealing from citizens. It was literal daylight robbery.
Many Republicans risked alienating their law-and-order followers by coming out against forfeiture, though Trump periodically endorsed the practice, and of course, Chris Christie never met a corrupt practice he didn’t love.
But the GOP Congressional Caucus has some high-profile anti-forfeiture players in it, notably from the Libertarian wing (Rand Paul, etc). Advocating for forfeitures at a moment in which the GOP is struggling to paper over its differences is peak-zero-fucks-given from Sessions, a wedge in a major fracture line that he’s hitting with the biggest mallet he can find.
"Instead of revising forfeiture practices in a manner to better protect Americans’ due process rights, the DOJ seems determined to lose in court before it changes its policies for the better," said Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
"The Fifth Amendment protects us from the government depriving us of our property without due process of law," read a statement from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. "I oppose the government overstepping its boundaries by assuming a suspect’s guilt and seizing their property before they even have their day in court."
"Civil asset forfeiture is unjust and unconstitutional," tweeted Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan. "It’s a big-government scheme to take people’s property without due process. End it."
"This is a troubling decision for the due-process protections afforded to us under the Fourth Amendment as well as the growing consensus we’ve seen nationwide on this issue," Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California said in a statement. "Criminals shouldn’t be able to keep the proceeds of their crime, but innocent Americans shouldn’t lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen."
Announced on Wednesday, the civil-asset forfeiture directive allows local law-enforcement to avoid state regulations that places limits on forfeitures. By allowing the federal government to acquire the seized assets, the state or local agency may be eligible to receive up to 80% of the proceeds, bypassing state laws that require the assets to be deposited into general funds for the state. The remaining 20% of the funds would be kept by the federal government.
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