Jeff Sessions is the most underrated member of the Trump administration

Edwin Meese III, Opinion contributorPublished 5:00 a.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018 | Updated 7:38 p.m. ET Jan. 30, 2018

The Attorney General has returned law and order to the Department of Justice — and the United States.

(Photo: Mark Wilson, Getty Images)

On the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration and in the days leading up to his first State of the Union address, observers have rightfully pointed out the important accomplishments of his administration so far, including deregulation, tax reform and the appointment of exceptional judges to the federal bench. Largely unnoticed has been the extraordinary work that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has done in the Department of Justice to create a Reaganesque resurgence of law and order.

There was plenty of work to be done. Sessions inherited an agency that had ceded its basic duty to enforce the nation’s law: It oversaw the incompetent Fast and Furious program, which gave drug cartels nearly 2,000 dangerous weapons, one of which was used to kill a U.S. Border Control agent; it declined to file criminal charges against Lois Lerner, who led the IRS as it targeted conservative organizations; it chose not to enforce federal drug laws; it even sued the state of Arizona for trying to crack down on illegal immigration.

Sessions has restored integrity to the office of Attorney General and has already made significant improvements to the DoJ. He has signaled to the country that its federal government will again take law and order seriously. Sessions has shown this in three crucial policy areas in particular: immigration, violent crime and drug enforcement.

Trump made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, and he has relied on his Attorney General to keep that promise. To encourage local jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, Sessions has implemented new conditions for federal law enforcement grants. Cities that do not report the arrest of an illegal immigrant to federal immigration officials will be denied these funds. This is a wise use of the carrot that is federal funding because, as Sessions has put it, “so-called ‘sanctuary’ cities make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.” Moreover, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, the DoJ is investigating the possibility of bringing criminal charges against political leaders of “sanctuary cities,” who deliberately defy federal law.

Sessions’s emphasis on immigration enforcement is also clear from his decisions to send more than 100 immigration judges across the country to help process immigration cases, and to create the position of Border Security Coordinator in U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country. Finally, the DoJ has mounted a strong legal defense of the president’s Executive Order restricting the entry of foreign nationals from countries that “present heightened threats” to America. This constellation of policies shows that the Attorney General is dedicated to keeping our borders secure and our immigration laws respected.

Sessions has also done important work to fight violent crime. In response to the alarming increase in violence committed against law enforcement officers in 2016, he announced $98 million in funding awards to 179 agencies around America. This money will fund the hiring of over 800 full-time officers. In addition to helping the thin blue line, the DoJ is aggressively pursuing MS-13 — the gang whose motto declares their intent to “kill, rape and control.” Mr. Sessions has made the gang a top priority for the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces, and last November the DoJ partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to arrest more than 200 MS-13 members. In fact, the Department convicted more than 1,200 members of various gangs last year.

Finally, Americans should know the significant steps Sessions is taking to fight our country’s alarming increase in drug abuse. In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses — up from 33,091 the year before. I helped lead President Reagan’s drug enforcement efforts during the 1980’s, which led to a 50% decrease in drug abuse. I have been greatly impressed by Sessions’s response to this new crisis. He created the Opioid Fraud and Detection Unit to identify individuals committing to the epidemic by committing fraud, and assigned a dozen of the nation’s most experienced prosecutors to opioid-related health care fraud cases. These prosecutors will partner with officials from other federal agencies to crack down on the corrupt health care professionals who endanger lives and contribute to what president has called “American carnage.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a modest man who doesn’t seek credit or accolades, but he deserves great praise for his hard work in restoring law and order in the Department of Justice. Americans are lucky to have him leading federal law enforcement.

Edwin Meese III served as Attorney General for President Ronald Reagan during 1985-1988.