Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks Announcing New Memo on Nationwide Injunctions

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Tim for that generous introduction and thank you for your decade of service to the Department of Justice and for your decorated service to this country as a Marine Lieutenant Colonel.  Probably the only thing scarier to a criminal than his prosecutor is when his prosecutor is also a Marine.

On behalf of President Donald Trump I want to thank all of the federal law enforcement officers who are here:

  • Darrin James and Thomas Relford of FBI
  • William Callahan with DEA
  • George Lauder of ATF
  • U.S. Marshal Mark James, and
  • Gilbert Trill of HSI.

At the Department of Justice we are inexpressibly proud of our fabulous federal officers, but we also understand and appreciate the fact that 85 percent of the law enforcement officers in this country serve at the state and local levels.  It is simple arithmetic that we cannot succeed without you.

And so I want to especially thank Sherriff Mark Owen of Platte County, Deputy Chiefs David Bosworth and Sharon Laningham of Kansas City Police, Director Rick Armstrong of the Kansas City Crime Commission, and my fellow prosecutors Ben Butler and Eric Zahnd.

In particular, I want to give a special thank you to Kansas City officers Buck Williams, Brent Cartwright, and Michael Delany.

As I’m sure many of you know, these officers were investigating the shooting death of a UMKC student when the suspect opened fire and shot all three officers.

Buck Williams and Michael Delany are here today.  Let’s hear it for them.

I wish that Officer Cartwright could be here as well—but we are certainly praying for him and thinking about him as he recovers from his injuries.

The sacrifice that these officers made shows the dangers that police face every day in America.

Every time an officer in the United States dies in the line of duty, the news comes across my desk. And as an expression of my appreciation for their service, I send a condolence letter to their families.

I’ve already sent 76 this year.

That’s two a week.  That’s far too many.

But it’s a reminder that the safety, security, and peace that we enjoy as Americans is bought with a price.

Police are the thin blue line that stands between law-abiding people and criminals – between safety and lawlessness.  You protect our families, our communities, and secure our country from drugs and violence.  The people of this country appreciate what you do.

And so—on behalf of President Donald Trump—I want to thank each of you for dedicating your lives to enforcing our laws and to keeping our communities safe.

Your work has not been easy.  We had a couple of rising crime years recently, before the start of this administration.

From the early 1990s until 2014, the crime rate steadily came down across the country.

But from 2014 to 2016, the trends reversed.  The violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent.  Robberies went up.  Assaults went up nearly 10 percent.  Rape went up by nearly 11 percent.  Murder shot up by more than 20 percent.

Here in Missouri, the violent crime went up by 17 percent over those two years.  The murder rate went up by a third.  Robbery went up by 16 percent.  Aggravated assault went up by 18 percent.

Here in Kansas City, the violent crime rate went up by a third.

Across your state in St. Louis, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, arrests went down and violent crime went up.  From 2013 to 2016, arrests fell by 18.9 percent.  Meanwhile, violent crime went up by 18.5 percent.  I don’t think that was a coincidence. In 2016, St. Louis had a murder rate more than 10 times the national average and double the murder rate of Chicago.

These numbers are deeply troubling–and especially since they represent a sharp reversal of decades of progress. 

We’ve got to get back on track. And we are. 

We must take these recent developments seriously and consider carefully what can be done about them.  Yielding to these trends is not an option.

Tim, I know that you and your team are doing your part.  You’re on pace to increase your violent crime prosecutions, firearm prosecutions, and illegal re-entry prosecutions over the last two years’ totals. This will have an impact.

And you’re prosecuting the right people.  I’ve directed you to go after the most dangerous and violent criminals—and that’s what you’ve been doing here in Kansas City.

I also saw the case recently where you arrested a woman at a bus station who was on her way to New York City with five pounds of fentanyl.  Depending on the purity, that could be enough to kill thousands of people.

We have clear goals at the Department.  From day one I plainly stated our goals are to reduce crime, reduce homicides, reduce prescriptions, and to reduce overdose deaths.

To do so, we will work with you reduce crime here in Missouri and across America – there is no other way.

Today I want to talk about a few of the steps that we are taking with you to do that.

First, we are sending in reinforcements.

We have a saying in my office that a new AUSA is ‘the coin of the realm.’  When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is how we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed. 

I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission.

We are hiring more than 300 new federal prosecutors—AUSAs—all across America.  That includes nine in Missouri and four in this office.  This is the largest surge in prosecutors in decades.

But the centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy is a new and modernized Project Safe Neighborhoods program—or PSN.

As many of you know, this program began in 2001.  Based around a set of core principles, PSN encouraged U.S. Attorneys’ offices to work with the communities they serve to develop customized crime reduction strategies.

The financial part of the program goes to state and local crime fighting entities – not federal agencies.

This is a proven model.  One study showed that, in its first seven years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of up to 42 percent.  That is a remarkable achievement.  There are Americans who are alive and well today because this program made a difference.

This is not just some theory.  We know that it works.  Just like we know a well-run community policing program works.

It works because of its emphasis on partnership with local communities, and because it has arisen from experience and sound research.

PSN is not a Washington-centered program.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

Every city and every district is facing a different set of circumstances and challenges.  Western Missouri is different from Eastern Missouri.

That’s why under PSN I have directed Tim and our U.S. Attorneys to do two things. 

First of all, to target and prioritize prosecutions on the most violent and most dangerous people in the most violent areas.

If you know that somebody is a violent criminal, then we need them off the streets.

Second, I’ve ordered our U.S. Attorneys to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders—from prosecutors to police chiefs to mayors to community groups and victims’ advocates—to identify the needs specific to their communities and develop a violent crime reduction plan.

Forging new relationships with local police and building on existing relationships will ensure that the most violent offenders are prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdictions.

PSN brings together the street-level intelligence of our local officers and the reach of our federal officers.

This PSN approach is already bearing fruit, including right here in Kansas City.

For example, PSN helped you secure a guilty plea from a Jefferson City man who was a felon in possession of some 50 firearms.

There are many more cases we could talk about.  But the bottom line is this: when law enforcement officers work together, we get results.

The Department of Justice is supporting our state and local partners here in Missouri.

That’s why today I am announcing that the Department of Justice will provide the Missouri State Highway Patrol with a total of $1.7 million to improve the quality and accessibility of its criminal history records.  Improved technology is our ally. 

That will have the added benefit of improving the information available to our national firearm background check system.  And that, in turn, will help law enforcement officers catch wanted criminals and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  It will save lives—including officer lives. 

This grant funding will help us carry out the President’s very first order to me when I was sworn in: enhance officer safety and back the men and women in blue.

I firmly believe that PSN and the Trump administration’s other law enforcement policies are not just good for law enforcement—they’re good for the people we serve. The greatest benefits are going to our poor and minority communities.

Let me take a minute to talk about another subject that’s important to us all. As you well know, we’ve run into what some people politely call the “resistance.”

The obstructionism that this President has faced has little precedent in our history, if any.

Sadly, we’ve even seen activist judges try to stand in the way of the entire Executive Branch of the United States.

Judges have been issuing an increasing number of orders that block the entire United States government from enforcing a law or policy. 

Not limited to the case or parties in front of them.  Not limited to their judicial district.  But everywhere.

In the first 175 years of this Republic, not a single judge issued one of these orders.

It’s not as though there weren’t legal controversies before 1963.  There were many.  But nobody issued a nationwide injunction.

Since President Trump took office less than two years ago, he has been hit with 25 of these nationwide orders.

This is not about politics.  This was a problem for President Obama.  It was a problem for President Clinton.  The Department of Justice—under Democratic and Republican administrations alike—has been consistent for decades that nationwide injunctions gravely threaten the rule of law.

Some of the erroneous rulings have been quite costly to the taxpayers.  They have delayed lawful executive actions.  They have engendered criticism of the President and the Department of Justice in the media and various groups that was not justified.

Sometimes we have faced impassioned judges that have attacked the motives of our attorneys, our client agencies and the Attorney General himself—me.

We’ve even had judges recalling a presidential stump speech made two years ago to psychoanalyze a lawfully drafted order.

We have a government to run. The Judiciary, which we respect is a co-equal branch, not a superior branch. 

It is not the duty of the courts to manage this government or to pass judgment on or give final approval for every policy action the Executive Branch takes. The Executive Branch manages the government. And the President is the head of the executive branch. Get over it. 

And so that’s why today I am announcing that I have issued litigation guidelines to assist our Department attorneys in fighting unconstitutional orders.  We’re going to fight them all the way to the Supreme Court.

I am confident that the law is on our side.  History is on our side.  And I believe that we are going to prevail.

In spite of our plaintiff friends in “the resistance,” the evidence is starting to come in that our efforts are bearing fruit. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stopped a nationwide injunction that blocked us from awarding Byrne-JAG grants, even to local jurisdictions who wholeheartedly supported our policy on deporting criminal aliens.

In 2017, the Department of Justice brought cases against the greatest number of violent criminals in a quarter of a century.  We charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade. 

Preliminary data show that both the violent crime rate and the homicide rate are beginning to head back down.

And, public data from 61 large cities suggest that violent crime overall was down in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to 2017.  The overall violent crime rate in these cities is down nearly five percent and murder is down more than six percent.

According to the National Prescription Audit, over the past year we reduced opioid prescriptions by over 11 percent. 

That’s in addition to a more than 7 percent decline in 2017.  And while 2017 saw more drug overdose deaths than 2016, the most recent data show a possible leveling off.

Law enforcement is crime prevention.  When we enforce our laws, we prevent new crimes from happening.

Our goal is not to fill up the courts or fill up the prisons.  Our goal is not to manage crime or merely to punish crime.  Our goal is to reduce crime in America.

And with your help, that is what we are going to do.

Let me close by thanking all of you once again for choosing to do this noble work.

The American people, the President and I properly support you.  Keep up the good work thank you for having me here today.

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Author: September 13, 2018