Jeff Sessions riles Georgia Republicans with return of civil forfeiture

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions departs a news conference after announcing an international cybercrime enforcement action at the Department of Justice on Thursday in Washington. AP/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump isn’t the only one ticked off at Jeff Sessions.

State Rep. Scot Turner doesn’t have the kindest of words the U.S. attorney general either, now that Sessions has reinstated the use of the widely-panned law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture.

The Holly Springs Republican penned a blistering letter to the top Justice Department official on Thursday, warning that “the individual liberty and the protections all Americans should enjoy are blatantly under attack.”

“By instituting the expansion of Civil Asset Forfeiture, you have signaled that prosecuting crimes the way our system is intended to work is not a concern for you,” Turner wrote. “Every American should be shocked by your actions, I know I am.” Read the entire letter here:

Sessions’ move makes it easier for cops to seize cash and assets from people, particularly drug suspects, reaping the proceeds without first bringing criminal charges against them. It’s a way police departments have been able to plug holes in their budgets, and proponents argue it helps hurt organized crime.

Turner’s been trying to tamp down on the practice in recent years, but so far he’s been beaten back by allies of law enforcement in the legislature.

The cause has united conservatives and liberals on Capitol Hill in opposition.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, advocated for a similar policy shift back in April in an op-ed in Real Clear Politics, in which he pointed out that minorities are disproportionately affected.

“This program is in danger of morphing into a government-sanctioned shakedown of innocent citizens,” Collins wrote.

Our AJC colleague Willoughby Mariano has written extensively about the potential for abuse in the system.

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Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com points us to the Facebook page of former state Sen. Judson Hill, a Republican who in April was pushed out of the Sixth District congressional race. Hill is now considering a run for state insurance commissioner:

There may not be a more urgent domestic policy issue impacting taxpayers across Georgia than the ability to afford health insurance and to access quality health care.

 

Georgia needs a proven leader as their next Insurance Commissioner who understands the issues and has common sense solutions. A leader is needed who will aggressively advocate with Congress to implement meaningful health care reform to re-set the insurance marketplace.

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On our subscription site, Brenda Fitzgerald, Georgia’s onetime public health commissioner who now runs Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, defends her past work on a childhood obesity program that received $1 million from Coca-Cola.

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An Atlanta native has been tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s local chapter.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson tapped Denise Cleveland-Leggett to serve as administrator for the department’s Atlanta-based region four, which oversees operations in nine states and territories, including most of the South and Puerto Rico.

Cleveland-Leggett has spent much of her career as a lawyer in Atlanta and was also a member of the Georgia State Ethics Commission.

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Yet another vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, or to simply repeal it, will be held next week, Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now says.

One senses in the last-ditch effort the seeds of civil war within the Senate Republican caucus.

Jason Pye still commutes to and from Georgia, but currently is the vice president of legislative affairs for Washington-based FreedomWorks. The tea-party era group has been vociferous in its insistence that Republicans in Congress keep their pledge to do away with the Affordable Care Act.

In a Wednesday conference call with conservative leaders, Pye promised to label Republican senators who don’t carry through – Rob Portman of Ohio comes to mind – as “traitors” who will be presented with busts of Benedict Arnold.

Then there’s Georgia-based Ralph Reed and his Faith and Freedom Coalition, which on Thursday announced that it would “score” next week’s vote – likely to be only a motion to proceed with debate on a repeal bill – as an actual vote for or against repealing Obamacare.

In other words, with his letter sent to every Senate Republican, Reed has joined the effort to press for a full Senate floor debate on the issue.

The “scoring”? Much like the Christian Coalition did decades ago, the Faith and Freedom Coalition puts out primary and general election scorecards – many distributed at churches – denoting the voting records of candidates.

Also, remember that Reed is among the Christian conservative leaders who have pressed President Donald Trump for an end to the Johnson Amendment that has prevented churches and other charities – as a price for IRS-granted, federal tax exempt status — from endorsing specific candidates.

So you could be hearing about this from the pulpit, too. In one direction or another.

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From Washington, WSB Radio’s Jamie Dupree sent a remember-when note on Thursday, shortly after a Nevada state board granted O.J. Simpson parole for his role in a 2007 armed robbery:

October 4, 1995 – I was sitting in my same seat up here in the Senate. Sam Nunn was to hold a newser that day to announce whether he would run for re-election. Nunn delayed it until the next week because of all the attention on O.J.

Oct. 4 was the day of the verdict in the Simpson murder trial. And a week later, Nunn indeed announced he would not seek re-election in 1996.

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The Daily Report has been keeping track of the written testimony between the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and Chris Wray, the Atlanta attorney and President Donald Trump’s nominee as FBI director. The newspaper fastened on an exchange between Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Wray. In part:

Hirono: Your current law firm, King & Spalding, has provided extensive representation to large Russian state-owned oil companies Rosneft and Gazprom, and to companies doing business with Rosneft and Gazprom. In fact, your biography on the firm’s website used to include as one of your clients: “An energy company president in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities.” While at King & Spalding, did you participate in any matters involving Rosneft or Gazprom, or share any confidential information with either company, or with entities engaged in business with either company?

 

Wray: No.


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