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Sessions falls flat in Baltimore

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Sessions: Not exactly connecting. - BAYNARD WOODS
  • Baynard woods
  • Sessions: Not exactly connecting.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III came to Baltimore on the day that Democrat Doug Jones won the attorney general’s former Alabama Senate seat in a special election victory over accused child molester, hardcore theocratic anticonstitutionalist and twice-removed state Supreme Court judge Roy Moore. Much of the country felt relief that Alabama did not elect a man to the U.S. Senate who is rumored to have been banned from an Alabama shopping mall back in the ’80s for harassing young girls.

Still, exit polls show more than 60 percent of white people in Alabama did vote for Moore, again proving that in some parts of America, where racism runs deep, almost nothing other than party matters.

Oddly, Trump, who strongly supported Moore’s run, tried to cast Moore’s defeat as a personal vindication, noting that he had endorsed Luther Strange during the Republican primary.
During his visit, Sessions was more reserved and seemed more uncomfortable than normal — and not only because he was in a majority black city. When asked if he had voted, Sessions, flashing his elfin grin, said he had but he would respect the “sanctity” of the secret ballot.

Meanwhile, former White House Chief Strategist and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, who brought Sessions into the Trump orbit, had used all his Breitbart-ian propaganda for Moore and gotten stomped. So now he was recalibrating.

A year ago, it was impossible to imagine that Alabama would end up with a Democratic senator in Sessions’ seat. Following Moore’s defeat, Bannon lamented to Newsweek that a different candidate that put “immigration and trade” at “the top of the agenda” would have been more attractive to voters.

“Judge Moore has never been, really, an economics guy,” Bannon said.

In Baltimore, Sessions followed the Bannon script and stirred up fear of immigrants and minorities. He was talking about the Salvadoran gang MS-13 and immigration, going back to his own most deeply held convictions of the danger of immigration.

Someone in the Department of Justice must have thought Baltimore would be the perfect venue for this message.

“Over the last two years, this city, in particular, has experienced violence like we haven’t seen in nearly a quarter of a century,” he said. “Baltimore has a higher murder rate and a higher violent crime rate than Chicago with less than a quarter of the population, if you can believe it.”

But there is virtually no MS-13 presence in Baltimore. And Sessions did not mention that eight members of an elite police task force here have been indicted by the Feds for racketeering and a series of other crimes — robbing civilians, planting drugs, stealing drugs and having them sold in Philadelphia by a local cop. A Baltimore police detective, Sean Suiter, died of a gunshot on Nov. 15 and it later came out that he was scheduled to testify against those officers the very next day.

Which means that Baltimore isn’t exactly a good place for your law-and-order speech. The “strong and motivated policing” he called for was what allowed the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force to be out of control in the first place. And to make it worse, Baltimore’s police commissioner asked the FBI to take over the case more than a week earlier and never got an answer. But when Sessions was asked by a local reporter about the FBI taking over the case, he seemed largely unaware of the case and spoke in platitudes about cooperation.
Sessions partially blamed immigrants for Baltimore’s crime, but he also wanted to blame those who protested the death of Freddie Gray, who died after rough handling by police in 2015.

“Bad things start happening and you can trace the surge in violence in this city to the riots and some of the reactions that occurred afterwards,” Sessions said.

Baltimore was a bad spot for Sessions because it also reminds people that he had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation for lying under oath. That investigation is now handled by Rod Rosenstein, who used to be U.S. attorney in Baltimore and is now Sessions’ No. 2 at the DOJ. Rosenstein was to testify about the investigation before the U.S. House the next day.

“I’m appropriately exercising my oversight responsibilities. So I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation,” Rosenstein said.

The far right is enraged because they think that special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team are politically biased and are demanding that Rosenstein fire Mueller. Last month, Republicans said that firing Mueller was the only way to prevent a coup. And messages between two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the former of whom was on Mueller’s team, have given fuel to that fire.

Strzok said that the Republican party ought to “pull their head out of their ass” and called Trump an idiot. Strzok was fired for this. But the far right is capitalizing on it. A Bannon-affiliated Super PAC is buying ads in local cable markets calling on Mueller to be fired. Right-wing pundits are calling for a purge in the FBI.

This is dangerous shit, for sure. But it’s crazy to act like our law enforcement offices all around this country aren’t politicized. It’s just that they’re usually right-leaning. At the same moment Sessions was speaking, the first six of 193 people who will ultimately face trial as a result of four broken windows on Inauguration Day were sitting in a courtroom being prosecuted by his DOJ. And testimony showed that prosecutors had a clear political bias against anarchists and for Trump.

But the same armchair #Resistance that has ignored the trampling of the rights of citizens and journalists in this case are getting ready for a mobilization if Mueller is fired. The danger is that they will be willing to embrace the kind of tough-on-crime mass incarceration policies of a Sessions DOJ if it helps save Mueller, who they see as the last hope.

As Sessions slithered away, looking simultaneously delighted and nervous, like a school boy at a strip club, his red cheeks glowing beneath his white hair, it was clear, once again, that we are in hell.

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