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.

Filed Under: asset forfeiture, civil asset forfeiture, donald trump, law enforcement

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:36pm


    They didn't care, he wasn't Clinton. A ham sandwich in his place as the republican nominee would have won even more easily.

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