Three Executive Orders on Crime Signed as Attorney General is Sworn In

Today President Trump attended the swearing in of attorney general Jeff Sessions and signed three Executive Orders related to crime. 

Former senator Jeff Sessions' nomination as attorney general was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 8th by a vote of 52-47, following an unusually contentious debate. During the course of the debate opponents attacked the now-attorney general’s civil rights record. The debate included the official silencing of Massachusetts’s senator Elizabeth Warren for impugning the character of a fellow senator by quoting a letter written by Coretta Scott King. In the letter, from 1989, King accused Sessions of using his power as a U.S. attorney to suppress African American voters in Alabama. The letter contributed to Sessions rejected nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986, but the partisan rancor did not derail his confirmation as the U.S. attorney general Wednesday night.

During the event President Trump signed three new Executive Orders relating to law enforcement. The first order, titled “Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Crime Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking” instructs the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to increase measures to fight cybercrime, intellectual property violations and theft, and human trafficking. 

The second order, titled “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety” instructs the Justice Department to establish a task force on the subject. The Task Force will focus on best practices and strategies to fight and reduce crime as well as identify deficiencies in existing laws, evaluate the availability and use of data and any other areas the Attorney General may instruct them to study. The Executive Order does include instructions for the Task Force to pay a particular emphasis on illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime. 

The third order, titled Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers” states that the Administration will pursue legislative actions to increase penalties for crimes against law enforcement as well as identify new types of crimes that can be committed against officers. While new federal law would include state officers, with no legislative proposals in place yet, it is unclear how a new law would impact existing state laws.

While there are a variety of ways that all three orders could include roles for, or otherwise impact, state governments Executive Orders are usually intentionally vague this will likely remain unclear until federal Departments propose implementation measures for the first and second orders and Congress introduces legislation on the third. The Task Force in particular could offer an opportunity for state officials to work directly with the Department of Justice to review, evaluate and propose more effective methods to reduce crime. The composition of the Task Force's membership will be at the discretion of the new attorney general.