At a meeting with sheriffs, President Trump joked about destroying the career of a Texas state senator who supported curtailing a controversial police practice for seizing people’s property. the Washington Post reports. Trump asked the assembled sheriffs yesterday if anyone wanted to “make a statement as to how we can bring about law enforcement in a very good civil lovely way, but we have to stop crime, right?” Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County, Tx., cited the issue of civil asset forfeiture, which allows authorities to seize cash and property from people suspected, but in some cases not convicted or even charged with a crime.
Eavenson told Trump of a “state senator in Texas that was talking about legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.” “Can you believe that?” Trump interjected. Eavenson said, “I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed.” “Who’s the state senator?” Trump asked. “We’ll destroy his career,” he joked. In 2014, federal authorities seized $5 billion from suspected criminals, more than the total losses to burglary that year. That number doesn’t count seizures by state and local law enforcement. Critics say the broad leeway to law enforcement officers in most states creates a system ripe for abuse. A 2015 ACLU investigation found that Philadelphia police routinely seized what amounted to “pocket change” from poor residents. The Post reported in 2014 that police seized $2.5 billion in cash from motorists not charged with crimes as part of a federal program. When told of the practice, a large majority of Americans oppose it.