Rand Paul

Rand Paul: Sessions Misled Me on Drug Sentencing

Senator slams the Attorney General's new directive, and offers new explanation for his confirmation vote.


Friday's order by Attorney General Jeff Sessions for federal prosecutors to pursue maximum sentences on drug crimes drew a swift rebuke from the most libertarian member of the United States Senate, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky):

Paul expanded on those comments in a CNN op-ed yesterday:

Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities. Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Obama, issued guidelines to U.S. Attorneys that they should refrain from seeking long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

I agreed with him then and still do. In fact, I'm the author of a bipartisan bill with Senator Leahy to change the law on this matter. Until we pass that bill, though, the discretion on enforcement—and the lives of many young drug offenders—lies with the current attorney general. […]

I urge the attorney general to reconsider his recent action. But even more importantly, I urge my colleagues to consider bipartisan legislation to fix this problem in the law where it should be handled. Congress can end this injustice, and I look forward to leading this fight for justice.

Important words. But the first response to Paul's original tweet is worth considering as well, summing up as it did what many libertarians were feeling:

Paul's answer to such criticism at the time was fourfold: 1) Sessions affirmed to him that the president has no right to drone non-combative Americans to death on U.S. soil; 2) the A.G. "agrees with the president" on law-enforcement issues, and therefore so would any potential replacement nomination; and anyways 3) "Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him by trying to destroy his character," so therefore 4) "if people want to apply a purity test to me they're more than welcome, but I would suggest that maybe they spend some of their time on the other 99 less libertarian senators."

But in an interview at Rare yesterday with his former employee and co-author Jack Hunter, Paul unveiled another reason for his vote:

"I spoke with Sessions last when he was up for nomination, which makes this move by him even more disappointing now, because it was different from what I was led to believe," Paul said via phone, indicating that at Sessions' confirmation, the senator walked away believing the new attorney general would not be pursuing this issue.

Seeing as how Sessions' drug-related punishment notions were of primary concern to Paul's fellow civil libertarians (here's just a sampling of Reason writing on the issue: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), it would have been nice to know then what he had been misled to believe. One hopes that the skeptical senator will now cease granting the benefit of the doubt to Trump nominees for, say, FBI director. At any rate this paraphrase from the Rare interview sounds preliminarily positive:

Paul said that in addition to the legislation he has sponsored with Sen. Leahy, he has been talking with Republican Senator Mike Lee and also Democratic Senators Corey Booker and Kamala Harris on other ways to diminish the damage done by these federal laws.

Listen to Nick Gillespie's December interview with Rand Paul at this link.

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  1. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry over Paul claiming to have been fucked over by Sessions and then turning right around and agreeing to work with a truly evil piece of shit like Kamala Harris.

    1. As a Senator, Harris doesn’t have power to enforce laws, only write and vote on them. If the law they come up together with is well written and overall a positive step, it’s not like she’s in a position to fuck that up afterwards (unless/until she becomes Attorney General, which honestly will probably happen the next time a Democrat takes office knowing our luck). On the other hand, a (current) AG like Sessions has the power to go back on his word and direct law enforcement to do shit like this.

      1. Unless Senator Paul is going to say “I specifically asked Jeff Sessions if he would push for mandatory minimums on drug cases as Attorney General and he promised me he wouldn’t” or words to that effect, then I don’t think there is cause for accusing him of “go[ing] back on his word.” Frankly I doubt that Sessions would be willing to make promises to anyone about how he would prosecute a particular case or class of cases that might come before him as Attorney General – nor should he.

        Paul is correct though that if you don’t like mandatory minimums, then you need to work through Congress to change them – not rely on an Attorney General who is willing to ignore laws he disagrees with either personally or politically as Holder did.

        1. I also doubt Sessions really gave much of an assurance, my point was that whatever he said, he was in a position to go back on it much more than Harris would be able to go back on whatever is in a bill/law.

          The law does need to change, but let’s not make Sessions increased enforcement of unconstitutional laws that the DOJ doesn’t have the resources to even dream of fully enforcing is a good thing.

      2. As a Senator, Harris doesn’t have power to enforce laws, only write and vote on them.

        “Only” to write them? Sessions does what he is supposed to do: enforce the laws as written, even when they are written poorly.

        Kamala Harris writes those bad laws. And if Paul thinks she isn’t going to “fuck him over”, he is even more naive than he usually is.

    2. From what I read, Sessions – the Attorney General (Head Cop) – emphasized enforcing the laws passed by Congress, in conformance with the constitution (executive branch). Libertarian?

      He implied that if we do not agree with the law – including those associated with drugs – then pressure the same Congress to change them. Libertarian?

      Is it just drugs with you people? What about all the other inconvenient rules.

      Rand needs to do his job to change laws rather than ‘not enforce’ the ones we don’t like.

  2. THIS JUST IN: The Senate is generally useless.

    I can’t believe that by attaching genuine (not made up or exaggerated) statistics about minority incarceration for non-violent drug offenders that this body can’t move enough members toward the woke vote they could get by enacting something close to meaningful reform.

    Oh, wait. Money. I forgot. Turns out I can believe it.

    1. “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities.”

      Fine, lock up more whites.

      /twist ending of a Twilight Zone episode

      1. That might get someone’s attention.

        1. +1 tiki torch vigil

      2. But in many districts whites are the minority so the statistics are BS

      3. “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of (minorities) criminals.”

  3. So basically, even though Rand Paul doesn’t agree with Sessions’ judicial philosophy on a wide range of issues, because the Democrats called Sessions mean names, that caused Paul to vote for him? Sheesh.

    1. That matches my feeble understanding. But Randal IS a REPUBLICAN, not a libertarian, and a damn good one as looter partisans go. He and his pop have good voting records on lots of things. Indeed, both would be true and proud YAF members if this were 1980, as Sessions seems to believe. If Reason would stop joining Salon in calling Randal libertarian–or come out and admit that Sessions, in the same party, would have made a model National Socialist in 1933, these stories would be less painful to read.

  4. Well, at least Paul knows the redress and put forward a bill to do exactly that. The fact no one else except the co-sponsor seem interested tells you exactly how much effect it’s likely to have.

    Either way it’s hard to demonize Sessions for enforcing the law as written. If Democrats actually cared about the people they claim to advocate for (or the Republicans, for that matter), they would be on board with this. Are they? We’ll see, but I’m fairly certain the answer will be ‘no’ by-and-large.

    1. Well, Dems won’t get credit for it if it passes under Trump.

      1. And they didn’t pass it over the last 8 years, either. I also note that Obama didn’t bother rescheduling a drug he has the authority to reschedule even though he was a user of that very drug (at least as a ‘youth’).

        Pretty absurd.

        1. In his fairness, there was never really a moment where the majority of people would’ve supported rescheduling cocaine.

          1. That’s not necessarily so. It was Democratic Texas, owner of a town named Bryan, that made a big stink abt the Dr Pepper plant in Waco–to the point of legislating a ban on cocaine in soft drinks in 1905, an era when the Pope of Rome was one of the celebrities endorsing Vin Mariani. William Jennings Bryan soon traveled to Bolivia to preach fire-and-gunpowder prohibitionism and nobody there understood a word that he said–or adopted his policies. In NY it was neolibertarian Al Smith who helped ban the stimulant, probably to make it into a source of graft and bribes.

    2. Well, at least Paul knows the redress and put forward a bill to do exactly that. The fact no one else except the co-sponsor seem interested tells you exactly how much effect it’s likely to have.

      Either way it’s hard to demonize Sessions for enforcing the law as written.

      I took this to be Paul’s stance when he voted for Sessions originally. Sure, jailing them for trivial/victimless offenses is bad, execution/dronessassination without trial is, in many ways, worse. The legislation isn’t likely to pass but is more representative of doing his job and working towards meaningful reform than waiting for Trumps list of appointees and going, “No. No. No…”

      As shitty as the AHCA is, the Freedom Caucus would’ve looked a lot more idiotic if they’d all spent months shooting down AGs. And, as indicated by Flynn, the Dems have no qualms about dropping the hammer on stray appointees, even if only they’re only in the wrong procedurally speaking.

      1. The Freedom Caucus is in the House and doesn’t vote on AGs.

        1. You’re right.

          I’m a bit subscribing to the alt-right/racist/obstructionist/libertarian sloppy thinking. It’s not even exactly clear that Rand Paul would be in the Freedom Caucus were he in the proper branch.

  5. Because drug laws are so nasty, pervasive and destructive it reasons that Trump can never be called a champion of deregulation while supporting drug laws.

  6. I read the Sessions memo (it’s only 1.5 pages and not very full of legalese) and can’t find anything that talks about mandatory minimums nor drug crimes. It seems like a boilerplate “new AG coming in” memo.

  7. Richard Lawler ? @rjcc
    @RandPaul you knew who he was and what he would do when you voted to confirm him. You didn’t care.

    When did the left say anything about Sessions that wasn’t “RACIST KKK RACIST OMG”?

  8. Lawler speaks truth about the Libpersonator. Though impersonation is a sincere form of flattery, there is nothing quite so repellent as a girl-bullying mystical bigot cross-dressing as a libertarian. Impersonators like Randal hand the looter media a dripping tarbrush with which to swab us as “the same thing.” Libertarians are promptly paraded in Salon as myrmidons of mindless superstition who think only of forcing girls to reproduce brainwashable Lebensborn vulnerable to superstitious programming. The GOP is hostage to klannish spoiler votes since George Wallace took 5 states away from Nixon in 1968. As they succumb to other forms of dementia, our votes will continue to force “both parties” to repeal bad laws.

    1. who think only of forcing girls to reproduce

      He’s a rapist! Why hasn’t anyone picked up this story?!?

      Oh… you meant that he’s against child murdering. Well, hate to tell you, but the “reproduction” has already taken place long before the abortion does.

    2. Myrmidons Of Mindless Superstition sold out with their second album.

  9. Rand apparently doesn’t know the fable of the frog and the scorpion.

    1. I feel so lucky that I am a lowly blog reader/commenter so I never had Jeff Sessions whisper false promises into my ear. I mean, who could ever doubt that little cherub when he turns on the charm?

  10. On the plus side, Rand Paul’s vote did help get Sessions out of the Senate.

    As least Sessions is now in a position where he can be dumped by the President at will and out of power.

    1. At least he’s gone from doing symbolic rubber stamps to being in charge of the country’s criminal justice system under a president who has absolutely no problem with his draconian approach!

      When will the excuses start trailing off, do you think? You do understand that this Trump thing isn’t going to end well.

  11. 4) “if people want to apply a purity test to me they’re more than welcome, but I would suggest that maybe they spend some of their time on the other 99 less libertarian senators.”

    While he has a point, the fact remains that Sessions has a long history – and people don’t just change their stance on these sort of policies unless there’s something to be gained (or at least nothing to be lost – as the large number of *former* LEO’s who oppose the drug war are showing). If Trump nominated Edwin Meese for the position, no matter how much may claim to have ‘reconsidered’, the first thing I’d expect him to to is start running up flags testing which way the wind blows for another war on pornography.

    As for the whole ‘the AG agrees with the President’ – *we* knew, and he should have, that that means nothing since not only has Trump been pretty silent on his law enforcement priorities (outside of illegal immigration) but he can’t even get himself and his staff on the same page on anything. See the last few times his staff have said something will or will not happen, did or did not happen, and then Trump coming in immediately behind them and contradicting them in public.

    To be honest, I don’t know how he’s managed to run a large business with this level of management skill.

    1. 3) “Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him by trying to destroy his character,”

      You really can’t destroy a drug warrior’s character. Its like defaming a drug kingpin – he’s done so much awful shit in his life that you really can’t bring his reputation any lower no matter what you accuse him of having done.

  12. No libertarian had any business voting to confirm Jeff fucking Sessions. The end.

  13. Sorry, Rand. I like you, but if you were dumb enough to believe Sessions wasn’t going to lie to you, then you’re a fool.

    Sessions has consistently held the same Neanderthal beliefs on marijuana and the Drug War for 40+ years, and made insane statements repeatedly (even as recently as a few months ago). Why you would believe the opposite is is true is facepalm territory….

  14. I wish Mr. Paul would have voted against Jeff Sessions in the first place, but he didn’t. At least now he is trying to pass a bill against Sessions and his stupid way of thinking. Locking up people, either black, white, purple etc for committing a non violent drug related crime does no good. It only makes a non violent person turn into a violent person most of the time. Jeff Sessions is one of the worst picks that Trump made (in my opinion). Sessions makes a joke about Marijuana. I wrote to him several times when he was a Senator in AL. I tried asking him to reconsider his thoughts on legalizing Medical Marijuana in AL due to the letters explaining to him how Marijuana helped this young man that DHR asked our family to take in since he was being abused. He was 22 years old and had dialysis 4 times weekly. He weighed 80 pounds soaking wet. He couldn’t eat without getting nauseated and his food not staying down. He suffered from depression badly. Sessions did respond back to our letter saying that he thought Marijuana did not help for health reasons and would lead to hard drugs. Total BS. We did what we had to do anyways and his depression went away and his weight increased from 80 pounds to 120 pounds. Leave it up to Sessions we all would be locked up except for his rich, stuck up friends. He calls himself a Christian man. Where is the compassion? We are looking our freedom each day.

  15. As pointed out elsewhere, Sessions is the only pick who is obviously competent enough to see his agenda through, which makes voting on him 10 times worse. Yes, any replacement AG would have likely agreed with Trump on many issues. But you could have held out for someone who was at least incompetent and sandbagged some of this drug war dinosaur bullshit that way

  16. If Sessions comes after legal weed, I’m joining the Resistance.

  17. Actually, proportional to the population at large…we don’t. I’m guessing you have no black friends?

  18. Session’s is an idiot. The war on drugs hasn’t worked in 40 years. In fact it’s worse.

    1. It hasn’t, which is why Congress should get rid of those laws.

      But it’s hypocritical to pass and keep those laws in effect and then blame the executive branch for enforcing them.

  19. Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities.

    I think mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea. But “unfairly and disproportionately”… how exactly?

    1. To answer your question the best way I can. I think unfairly because it ruins a persons life for good. Say the person is young and makes a mistake, after he/she is arrested and/or locked up its so hard for them to get a job.

  20. Gullible’s travels.

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