Saturday, November 26, 2016

7 big areas where Jeff Sessions could change policy at DOJ

By Danny Vinik,
11/18/16 08:01 PM EST

Sen. Jeff Sessions was an instantly divisive figure when President-elect Donald Trump named him as his next attorney general: conservatives and immigration hardliners welcomed the choice, while civil-rights groups and Democrats spent the day attacking the pick, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren saying his selection would be a “compromise with racism,” and Sen. Cory Booker saying, “I am concerned that he possesses ideologies that are in conflict with basic tenets of the Justice Department’s mission.”

In part the critics’ focus was on controversial past comments by Sessions, such as accusations that he said the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union were “un-American,” and joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK, until I learned they smoked pot.” But much of the concern is what he’d actually do as AG: that he’d undermine civil rights protections, prosecute more undocumented immigrants and allow companies to go wild with mergers.

So what could he really do? Some cabinet-level jobs have limited power to affect the country, either because of their narrow mission or the slow rule-making processes needed to make major changes in public policy. Not so the Attorney General. Though sitting on top of the vast Department of Justice bureaucracy, the AG has wide discretion to shift American policy in huge ways simply by how he prioritizes its limited resources—which cases the office chooses to prosecute and which ones it lets go. It runs dozens of agencies, including the powerful FBI, DEA, and the immigration courts. And it also, insiders say, exerts huge influence on the White House’s own sense of its power.

"At every cabinet meeting, they are the person who everyone goes to and says what are range of options,” said a former Bush administration official. “Being able to cabin or expand the range of options available to the executive branch is a very powerful capability.”

(More here.)


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