Attorney General Jeff Sessions is crediting President Trump for leading an effort to end a violent crime wave in America. There’s just one problem — that crime wave never existed in the first place.
In a new USA Today op-ed and on the White House’s social media channels, Sessions is touting new FBI crime statistics showing a very slight drop in U.S. violent crime in 2017 by praising Trump for giving Americans hope.
"For the first time in a long time, Americans can have hope for a safer future, with a slower murder rate and decreasing violent crime." Read more from AG Sessions: https://t.co/2BQMob4BPR
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 24, 2018
“Crime rates are not like the tides — we can help change them,” Sessions wrote. “And under Trump’s strong leadership, we will.”
Overall, “violent crime declined by 0.8 percent” in the first six months of 2017. The FBI release on the data described it as a “slight decline.”
But as recent Brennan Center data indicates, violent crime in America’s largest cities has been steadily decreasing for more than two decades — through both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The only specific Trump policy change under Trump that Sessions cites in his op-ed is increased federal prosecutions. But the less-than-one percent drop in violent crime in the first half of 2017 paled in comparison to other recent years — there was a 4.4 percent drop in violent crime in 2013, for instance. A spike in murders of the first half of 2017 was offset by a decline in rape and robbery.
In general, year-to-year crime statistics tend to highly variable, so the long-term trend is the more important indicator.
Trump’s campaign featured stoked fear about a fictional crime wave. During his “American carnage” inaugural speech, Trump decried “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” Sessions has parroted Trump’s rhetoric. During a speech immediately after he was sworn in as AG, he said “we have a crime problem,” going as far as to falsely characterize it as “a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”
Sessions is doing everything he can to give President Trump credit for tackling violent crime at the same time that concerns are mounting about Trump’s political interference in law enforcement institutions.
The president has reportedly been pushing Sessions to purge Obama-era holdovers from the FBI, and a number of Trump-supporting Republican members of Congress have been using Fox News’ platform to suggest that “deep state” officials are trying to undermine the president.
Like Sessions is doing with regard to crime data, The Trump administration has worked to give Trump credit for the fake jobs boom.