Steve Cook, president of the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, has been named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the associate deputy attorney general with a mandate to focus on violent crime. In that job, which does not require Senate confirmation, Cook will be the top federal official working full-time on implementing President Trump’s vow to curb “carnage” in U.S. cities, reports The Trace. Last year, Cook took part in a podcast hosted by Frank Gaffney, a conservative conspiracy theorist. Cook, 61, who was also chief of the Criminal Division for the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, was there to talk about his opposition to federal criminal justice reform legislation that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes.
At one point on the program, Gaffney asserted that Obama’s use of his clemency power to commute the sentences of nonviolent federal prisoners freed “people who have been converted in prison to, not just to Islam, but to jihad.” There is no evidence that anyone whose sentence was commuted by Obama engaged in terrorism, but Cook did not correct his host. Like Sessions, Cook is a fierce proponent of the crime-fighting theory that is responsible for our current era of mass incarceration. Lock up as many drug dealers and traffickers as possible, for as long as possible, and violent crime will subside, he maintains. “When you put criminals in jail, crime goes down,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “That’s what incapacitation is designed to do, and it works.” Sentencing reform advocates greeted Cook’s appointment with alarm. “We were all kind of like shocked. Like ‘Oh no, not him,’” said Debi Campbell of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “It’s actually kind of scary.”