Trump-Sessions Crime Stance Misguided, NY Times Says

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A New York Times Sunday lead editorial blasts President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for their stance on crime and punishment. The newspaper says the two appear “to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election.” The two men “seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative,” the newspaper says. It adds that Sessions “has repeatedly hawked a nationwide crime wave that doesn’t exist, and he has called crime spikes in certain areas a ‘dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk’.”

The Times faults the administration for linking crime to its broader crackdown on immigration, and for Sessions’ orders to federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case and to allow federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. Sessions called a sentencing reform bill that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last week a “grave error.” The Times gives Trump credit only for declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, and for endorsing an improvement to prisoner reentry programs. The newspaper uses the Virginia governor’s race as an example of why the Trump-Sessions rhetoric doesn’t work. Republican candidate Ed Gillespie blamed opponent Ralph Northam for violence by the MS-13 gang. The Times calls it a “despicable stunt, its fearmongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign.” Gillespie lost decisively, which the newspaper calls “another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum.”

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