Many conservatives would scoff at the idea that Attorney Jeff Sessions is President Trump’s most effective cabinet member. They would cite his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (probably the right call), his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton (probably the right call), and his failure to remember various obscure meetings with Russians, etc. (unfortunate).
But those who pay close attention to policy know that the Sessions Justice Department is advancing important conservative causes and undoing key liberal policies of the last administration. In fact, as the Washington Post puts it, he is reshaping the Justice Department.
The Post is dubious authority on many propositions, but it knows very well who is harming left-liberalism. It correctly perceives that Sessions has made “dramatic and controversial changes in policy since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.”
Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz provide this overview of Sessions’ key initiatives and accomplishments:
Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.
Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. . . .
I don’t think the word “even” belongs in the second quoted paragraph. It’s telling that the authors put it there.
Zapotosky and Horwitz tells us that, based on this record, “supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.”
Zapotsky and Horwitz provide a fairly detailed, albeit biased, discussion of Sessions’ impact in three policy areas: immigration, law enforcement, and civil rights.
On immigration, the estimable Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, gives Sessions an “A-plus” for his work, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges, and his focus on the MS-13 gang.
On law enforcement, Sessions has promoted the rule of law by issuing a new charging and sentencing policy. We discussed that policy here
On civil rights, the Sessions Justice Department is aggressively prosecuting hate crimes. For example, he recently sent an attorney to Iowa to help the state prosecute a man who was charged with killing a gender-fluid 16-year-old high school student last year. The move drew praise from the leftist civil rights community.
At the same time, Sessions is determined not to let overly-aggressive parts of the LBGT agenda trump religious freedom. Thus, the Justice Department has sided in a major upcoming Supreme Court case with Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.
The Sessions Justice Department has also rolled back overly-aggressive positions taken by the Obama administration in voting rights cases. And, as we discussed here, it is investigating Harvard for race discrimination in its undergraduate admissions policies.
I’m confident there is plenty more where all of this is coming from, provided that President Trump puts policy first and retains Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.