Jeff Sessions began his first public comments after being sworn in attorney general with a boilerplate “thank you” to President Trump and an acknowledgment of the need to “encourage” Justice Department workers.
He then immediately pivoted to echoing falsehoods his new boss has been pushing about crime and the threat posed by Muslims.
“We have a crime problem. I wish the rise that we are seeing and crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip,” Sessions said. “My best judgment having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk,” he said Thursday.
Though some cities like Chicago and New Orleans are suffering from short-term spikes in violence, Session’s claim about rising crime being a “permanent trend” is demonstrably false nationwide:
"This is a dangerous permanent trend" — AG Sessions on growing crime rate.
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) February 9, 2017
— Udi Ofer (@UdiACLU) February 9, 2017
Sessions’ claim is also false with respect to crime in U.S. cities in particular.
Days after Trump was inaugurated, he threatened to “send the Feds!” into Chicago to take care of the “carnage” occurring there. In his first comments as AG, Sessions didn’t indicate whether he supports using federal power in that manner, which would likely be unconstitutional.
But Sessions did express support for the national security rationale Trump has used to justify his Muslim ban, which indefinitely barred refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. A federal judge last Friday issued a stay against the ban.
“We have an increased threat since I was a United States attorney from terrorism. Mr. President, you’ve spoken firmly on that,” Sessions said. “You’ve led this nation to say, ‘we’re going to respond effectively to the threat of terrorism,’ and you can count on your Department of Justice to do so in an effective way.”
Sessions is merely rehashing the administration’s campaign theory, which has no basis in fact, that banning people from entry on the basis of their faith will make the country more secure.
His comments aren’t surprising. Throughout the presidential election, the then-senator was arguably the most prominent supporter of Trump’s December 2015 call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
But now that he’s been sworn in as attorney general, Sessions will work toward making Trump’s orders, including the Muslim ban, the law of the land.
“We will defend the lawful orders of the president of the United States with vigor and determination,” Sessions concluded on Thursday.
To signal how serious the two are about making America safe from their overinflated fears about crime and Muslims, Trump signed three executive orders addressing violent crime just before Sessions was sworn in — one promising a crackdown on criminal immigrants, another announcing the creation of a task force to reduce violent crime, and the third directing the Department of Justice to stop violent crime against law enforcement officers.