Saturday, February 11, 2017

The president doesn't know what civil forfeiture is

Trump Does Not Know What Civil Forfeiture Is, but He Likes It - Hit & Run : - Jacob Sullum:

February 9, 2017 - "In a meeting with county sheriffs from around the country on Tuesday, President Trump jokingly (we hope!) threatened to 'destroy [the] career' of a Texas legislator who proposed requiring the government to obtain a conviction before taking property allegedly tied to crime.... Worse, the White House transcript of the president's remarks about forfeiture shows he literally does not know what he is talking about...

"Jefferson County, Kentucky, Sheriff John Aubrey broaches the subject of forfeiture, complaining that 'people want to say we're taking money and without due process.' According to Aubrey, 'That's not true. We take money from dope dealers.' It's clear from Trump's response to Aubrey's complaint that he does not know any of this....
  • Trump: So you're saying — OK, so you're saying the asset taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right? And you're not allowed to do it now?
  • Aubrey: No, they have curtailed it a little bit. And I'm sure the folks are —
  • Trump: And that's for legal reasons? Or just political reasons?
  • Aubrey: They make it political, and they make it — they make up stories. All you've got to do —
  • Trump: I'd like to look into that, OK? There's no reason for that. Dana, do you think there's any reason for that? Are you aware of this?
  • Acting Attorney General Dana Boente: I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.
  • Trump: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we're criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?
  • Boente: Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case. And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.
  • Trump: And now what happens?
  • Boente: Well, now we've just been given — there's been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.
  • Trump: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they'd want this stuff taken away.
  • Aubrey: You have to be careful how you speak, I guess. But a lot of pressure is coming out of — was coming out of Congress. I don't know that that will continue now or not.
  • Trump: I think less so. I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they've let this happen. And I think badly. I think you'll be back in shape. So, asset forfeiture, we're going to go back on, OK?
  • Aubrey: Thank you, sir.
  • Trump: I mean, how simple can anything be? You all agree with that, I assume, right?
  • Unnamed Participant: Absolutely, yeah.
  • Trump: Do you even understand the other side of it?
  • Participant: No....
"Trump initially seems to think asset forfeiture is what happens when police seize 'a huge stash of drugs.' He is puzzled that anyone would say the cops should return a pile of cocaine or heroin to a drug dealer, because 'you would think they'd want this stuff taken away.'

"Eventually Trump seems to get that it's money (or other assets) the cops are taking, but he still assumes it's money lying next to a huge stash of drugs — as opposed to, say, the savings of a hapless college student, the winnings of innocent poker players, or the bank account of a convenience store owner whose deposits the IRS deemed suspiciously small. Trump is baffled as to why anyone would want to stop the cops from taking drug dealers' profits.

"Aubrey and Boente, who obviously know better, are not about to enlighten Trump, since they both have a financial interest in promoting forfeiture, which helps fund their budgets."

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