Trump Says There's 'No Reason' To Scale Back Asset Forfeiture; Threatens Career Of Senator Backing Forfeiture Reform

from the asserting-the-government's-right-to-just-take-stuff dept

Here comes some more law and order, courtesy of our new law and order President. President Trump met with a group of sheriffs on Tuesday and offered to start rolling back civil asset forfeiture reforms. Apparently, it’s time to reset the clock on forfeiture, bringing us back to a time when the process wasn’t so heavily-criticized. But Trump’s not offering to curb abuse. He just fails to see why so many people think it’s a bad idea.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday there was “no reason” to curb law enforcement agencies that seize cash, vehicles and other assets of people suspected of crimes, a practice that some lawmakers and activists have criticized for denying legal rights.

The issue of civil asset forfeiture, created to disrupt the activities of organized crime groups, arose when sheriffs from around the United States told Trump at a White House meeting that they were under pressure to ease the practice.

“I’d like to look into that,” Trump said. “There’s no reason for that.”

Oh, there’s plenty of reason for that. But Trump is unequivocally on the side of law enforcement, no matter how much of an abusive farce asset forfeiture has become. Trump should have limited his comments to promising to look into it — something he clearly hasn’t done. A little bit of information would go a long way. But, as Scott Greenfield points out, information-gathering isn’t something Trump’s much interested in.

[T]he President of the United States doesn’t know the first thing about asset forfeiture. He has no clue how it started, what problems have since developed, the in-depth discussions of why it’s wrong, how it’s wrong, how it destroys the lives of the poor schmuck who made the mistake of driving down the wrong stretch of road with out-of-state plates.

The problem isn’t that “there’s no reason,” but that Trump doesn’t know the reason, and doesn’t find it worth his very valuable time to learn the reason before spouting off.

It would have been damaging enough if Trump had left it there. But he didn’t. As the sheriff continued to complain about not being able to take property from people without a conviction, Trump continued to insert his foot deeper into his mouth.

At a meeting Tuesday with sheriffs from around the country, Sheriff Harold Eavenson complained about a state senator who wanted to make it harder for law enforcement to get control of assets forfeited by drug traffickers.

“Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump offered.

LOL. A threat from the most powerful politician in the world. Hilarious. Sure, it’s a joke. Trump’s not going to destroy the unnamed senator’s career. I mean, I don’t think he is. The sheriff didn’t offer a name or any other information that might get the destruction process started and, most likely, Trump immediately forgot about his stupid joke the minute the meeting ended.

But still, it’s a horrible thing to hear coming from a president’s mouth, even if it was just a very poor joke. The two Texas senators who have been pushing the hardest for asset forfeiture reforms weren’t very amused by Trump’s comment.

Senators Konni Burton and Juan Hinojosa both offered statements in response. Here’s Burton’s (h/t CJ Ciaramella):

I have never met with Sheriff Eavenson, nor even heard of him before yesterday. However, I take exception to his comments on asset forfeiture reform.

While I certainly want law enforcement to have the tools necessary to combat large criminal enterprises, we must be vigilant to safeguard the rights of everyday citizens from potential abuse. Do not be mistaken or misled: this is not strictly a law enforcement issue; this is a property rights issue.

Property rights are one of the foundational rights in any free society and the taking of property by government is no small matter. Requiring the government to secure a criminal conviction before permanently taking property from citizens is simply commonsense. We would not stand for anything less when it comes to our personal liberty or freedom; why should we allow our property to be taken so easily?

And Hinojosa’s:

I do not know and have not met with Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County. And quite frankly, I don’t pay much attention to what President Trump says anymore. However, the asset forfeiture bills I have authored and co-authored will not interfere with our law enforcement agencies’ ability to do their jobs. Instead, these bills are an important protection for Texans’ property rights and civil liberties. I have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and Texas and intend to do just that by protecting the rights of people and property.

All in all, Trump’s meeting with law enforcement officials sends discouraging signals. The rights of the many will be subject to the needs of the few. The administration has already threatened to strip funding from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division — the one part of the agency that actually does anything to head off future misconduct and abusive behavior by the nation’s law enforcement agencies. The comments made in this meeting suggest civil liberties are very low on this administration’s list of priorities.

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Comments on “Trump Says There's 'No Reason' To Scale Back Asset Forfeiture; Threatens Career Of Senator Backing Forfeiture Reform”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

We have reason to believe that the current President may not understand any concept larger than 140 characters. He is not the only President to fail to understand this Amendment. Oh, and the fallacy that things are not people does not remove the certainty that people owned those things being charged and not convicted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m amazed he’s even addressed what is still a relatively niche issue in terms of press coverage.

The sheriffs he met brought it up to complain that they don’t like being asked to abide by the Constitution. Like any politician, he had to say something, and the obvious choice if you don’t have a dog in the fight is to back the guy who brought it up.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Law Enforcement agencies from Federal to State to Municipal all love asset forfeiture because that sweet cash doesnt have to be accountable to the taxpayer, it doesnt come into their budget or out of it, it’s free money to them and they want every fucking cent they can get. “what that you say? Your Not Guilty, too bad we’re taking it”, “Guilty..fuck you were still taking it” “Not yours? Fuck you were taking it anyway…” wait is that a shirt on your back, hand that the fuck over now.. taking it”

The fact that of whether you are guilty or not guilty doesnt matter, they can snatch your shit up on a whim. “Where did you get this money?” “You Just got paid, look at your pay stub”..” No Sir, suspected drug money, taking it”

As I said For the Federal, State or Municipal law enforcement agencies it is open season to take what ever you have guilty of a crime or not. This is why the Police association are crying on Trumps shoulder because states are starting to hear from innocent citizens how they are being stopped for traffic violations ( imaginary ones at that ) and of course the litany of excuses to justify searching you and your stuff and car comes into play (smells like marijuana , you were going to fast, you were going to slow, you didnt put your signal on, or an indicator of suspicion talking too much, talking too little, making eye contact, not making eye contact, on the hwy or interstate where some had a joint in their car one day or a trunk full of drugs or none at all) any excuse they can use to justify stopping you all to se what they can loot from you.

Used to be you had to worry about being robbed by shady characters or being stuck up by some druggie looking for quick cash for a fix or some crackhead, well fear not friends.. next time you see your local crackhead with a knife wanting your wallet, flash him a friendly smile and hand him over that wallet and ATM code for that bank card because your going to thank your lucky stars it was just some crackhead not the fucking cops who would have stuck a gun in your ribs and stole your shit for nothing, at least the crackhead did it for drugs, not the cops it is all about safety and thwarting crime that you got stopped on the way to your job or to visit family and friend.

Hell when you see tow truck drivers speeding thru school zones on their way to fight parking crime, you’ll even have respect for them after they have handed you that grossly over inflated towing bill and you’ll still want to give them a friendly wave more than you will that cop that pulls up beside you and glances your way with his Foster Grant sunglasses on and a look of constipation on his face and a wry smile while thinking to himself “ooh a corvette, we dont have one of them there fancy things for the impound auction yet, bet that fella in the suit and tie there stole it, better pull him over”

Yes no need to fear the little crackheads and hooligans breaking into houses or businesses or jacking people for cars and cash or those rapists and murders, no no you have to watch for the real crooks with the cars that say P-O-L-I-C-E on them, those are the bandits who are going to jack your shit in the name of the law even when you have committed no crime.

Yup your innocent but they want a cut of something they never should have taken from you in the first place, you bet your ass they do. It’s still free money to them no matter what, and to them if they cant get it all they will sure take a fucking consolidation prize.

Hence why your seeing Law Enforcement bitch about states enacting legislation so they cant abuse the forfeiture laws on a whim and actually need to secure a conviction. You would think that Law Enforcement would want to make sure they have it right before they sell your shit for fun and profit right? Nope, it is of no interest to them, they just want to get that cash for your stash because it is all free money for toys and slush funds and god knows what else, because they dont have to account for it.

I am waiting to see where this is going to lead us, and I will tell you right now, get ready to see a lot more police chases, a lot more violent confrontations, a lot more officer initiated shootings, and a lot more civil lawsuits and constitutional violations.

If Law Enforcement thinks things are bad now between it and the public wait till this asset forfeiture starts to become more and more common and more and more abused, shit will hit the fan big time. If you ever wondered why citizens don’t trust the Police this is another item you can add to the growing list of reasons why and how it grows more and more everyday.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well if Civil Asset Forfeiture is fine, lets see how Trump feels if it's done to him

If Trump thinks Civil Asset Forfeiture is just fine and dandy with no abuses, then I’m sure he won’t complain at all if some states decide to seize all his ’10 billion’ dollars worth of assets through civil asset forfeiture as proceeds of alleged crimes that Trump is completely innocent of.

I mean we all know that cops never make mistakes, and prosecutors never charge people who aren’t guilty of the crime, right? And no, it’s totally not a conflict of interest that seizing ’10 billion dollars’ worth of assets would be a major boon to filling some state budget gaps without having to cut spending or raise taxes.

DebbyS (profile) says:

Re: Well if Civil Asset Forfeiture is fine, lets see how Trump feels if it's done to him

Of course, as you know, none of those wealthy folks in trump’s cabinet will suffer any from the consequences of their actions (at least, not obviously). They will remain in the 1%.

First, he picked them because they are richer than he is (or his taxes would say otherwise), and so he can look down his nose at them and boss them around and they have to comply or leave. They won’t leave because they’ll be missing out on the extra $$$$$$$ (and I don’t mean salary).

Second, he can get tips from them on how to sidestep any and all consequences for actions taken against others because they have been working in the background for so long they know the ins and outs of how to lie, cheat, steal, destroy, etc., even better than he does.

Fortunately(?), the one thing they can’t do is escape the consequences of their part in destroying the environment. They, too, have to breathe, drink and eat the toxins they have so thoughtlessly poured onto the earth and into the air and seas. As the old saying goes, what goes around comes around — even for god’s chosen, as they surely think they are.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Okay, so: I, a respectable law enforcement officer, suspect you, My_Name_Here, of drug-related activity. Nice car you’ve got there. Consider it forfeit.

Off you go, now.

What conviction? Shut your whining yap you liberal socialist! We’re not obliged to secure a conviction or even charge you with an offence before we take your wheels. Or any of your other stuff.

Cowardly Lion says:


"Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career," Trump offered.

In no earthly realm is this is a joke. This is Trump, puffing out his chest. The big shot; "look at me, I can crush anyone I want". Pure braggadocio.

Ronald Reagan’s "We begin bombing in 5 minutes" was a joke. Highly inappropriate to be sure (but aren’t the best jokes always so?), which is why he took a beating. But it was meant to lighten a highly tense situation at that time because it was so shocking, and made people do a double-take. It’s certainly a classic compared to Trump’s preening.

mcherm (profile) says:

Simple way to change Trump's position on Forfeiture

All it would take is ONE brave law enforcement officer willing to end his/her career and we could easily flip Trump’s position on this issue. If a single officer seized any property belonging to Mr. Trump himself I feel confident that the President would go on the warpath against asset forfeiture.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Simple way to change Trump's position on Forfeiture

If a single officer seized any property belonging to Mr. Trump himself I feel confident that the President would go on the warpath against asset forfeiture.

I’m not so confident of this. I’m sure Trump would object to his own assets being seized, but to be able to take his own experience and imagine it happening to others would require empathy, and that is one asset he does not possess.

DebbyS (profile) says:

Re: Simple way to change Trump's position on Forfeiture

Better for a greedy law officer to go after one of trump’s kids who has managed to escape Secret Service protection so he/she can have some fun that, oh, smells like MJ. A fancy car and wallet full of $$ forfeited for even a while would raise a ruckus that couldn’t be covered up forever. Secret Service, already tired of trumpish antics, might look the other way for a while as local news/citizen journalists investigate.

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