While Trump supporters demand the Trump administration be given the benefit of doubt – because no official has even been charged with a crime – the administration is ensuring others don’t receive the same courtesy.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to bring back civil asset forfeiture, a practice that was being phased out in the Obama era, meaning the government will once again aggressively take the property of everyday Americans suspected of criminal wrongdoing even if those Americans never face charges. It has been one of the most baffling practices of a country that says it believes in the principle of innocence until guilt proven.
Sessions said it is a valuable tool in the fight against drug cartels and the like. No, it’s not. It’s the kind of governmental overreach that should generate outrage in every American, no matter one’s political preferences. It doesn’t honor the U.S. Constitution; it perverts it.
As usual, the most vulnerable – the poor – have been hit hardest by this practice, which amounted to $29 billion of taken property in 2014, a 1,000 percent increase from 2001, according to the Institute for Justice. Sessions says he wants to implement safeguards so the practice won’t be abused. But that’s laughable, given that the practice itself is an abuse of government power.
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What’s worse, Sessions wants to bypass states, including North Carolina, that place restrictions on the practice. North Carolina has one of the country’s stronger asset forfeiture laws, according to the Institute for Justice, which tracks the issue. N.C. law permits the practice only when a person has been convicted of a crime, but Sessions wants to give local law enforcement the authority to process forfeiture cases under federal statute. Local police could then share a portion of the assets with federal authorities.
Contrast that with how administration officials frequently excuse themselves from the consequences of their own actions. In a statement Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner released before speaking to Congressional investigators Monday, he argued he didn’t closely read the email chain that explicitly said a meeting with a group of Russians he attended with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort was said to be part of the Russian government’s efforts to help candidate Trump. He also was too busy with the transition to the White House to stop his assistant from mistakenly sending in an allegedly incomplete documents used to determine his security clearance.
Similarly, numerous members of the White House communications staff and Trump voters have defended President Trump by saying he was too inexperienced to have known not to speak to former FBI Director James Comey multiple times about an ongoing investigation. His son, a 39-year-old married father of five, has repeatedly been called just a “boy” who didn’t know he was being duped by alleged Russian officials.
Everyday Americans must be held to account for their actions, even the innocent, if they are allegedly too close to suspected, yet unproven illegal activity – a standard the Trump administration doesn’t seem to want to apply to itself.