Sense and nonsense on crime

1) Philadelphia has nominated a Democratic District Attorney candidate (who will surely win) who really gets it:

If elected in November — and he is the heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Democratic town — Krasner has pledged to never seek capital punishment while working to end bail policies that lock up people for being poor, an asset-forfeiture program that has been a national disgrace, and stop-and-frisk searches that disproportionately target non-whites.

Krasner told his wildly enthusiastic supporters tonight that “[o]ur vision is of a criminal justice system that makes things better, that is just, that is based on preventing crime and is based on building up society rather than tearing it apart.”

2) The Trump administration is bringing in literally one of the worst law enforcement officials in the country:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has gained national notoriety for his inflammatory remarks on Fox News and social media, such as when he called a black CNN commentator a “jigaboo” and repeatedly claimed that Black Lives Matter is a “hate group” and a “terror organization.” Most recently, he’s also drawn scrutiny for his mishandling of the county jail he oversees, where three people and a newborn baby died last year between April and December.

Now Clarke is set, he said, to accept a role in President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

3) And a very nice piece of good news, NC looks to finally be on track and no longer be the only state in the country to automatically try 16 and 17 years-olds as adults:

A “Raise The Age” bill to take some teenagers out of the adult court system passed the N.C. House Wednesday in a 104-8 vote.

House Bill 280 would allow a 16- or 17-year-old who commits certain crimes to be tried as a juvenile – not as an adult. North Carolina is the only remaining state that automatically prosecutes people as young as 16 as adults. Violent felonies and some drug offenses would still be handled in adult court.

Similar bills have passed the House in previous years, but this year’s effort has backing from law enforcement and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin. After Wednesday’s House vote, the bill goes to the Senate, where Republican leaders have included similar legislation in the budget bill passed last week.

Hooray.  But do you want to know why it is so hard to have nice things.  Because there are still so many people (and let’s be honest, most of them old white guys) who are extraordinarily retrograde on these things.  Introducing Larry Pittman:

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican and opponent of the bill, said he wants to protect the rights and safety of his constituents, and “I don’t believe we can do that by going soft on crime. One of those is the right not to be robbed.” …

But Pittman said North Carolina shouldn’t follow the lead of other states. “Standing alone does not mean you’re wrong,” he said. “Should we be lemmings running off the cliff into the sea just because 49 other states have done so?”

Good grief.  How much better a place the world would be if there weren’t still all these, “oh no soft on crime!” types.  The very good news is that Pittman is now the minority, at least on this.

Photo of the day

From a Post photos of the week gallery:

May 9, 2017A pigeon walks in front of soldiers during the Victory Day military parade in St. Petersburg. Victory Day commemorates the Red Army’s determination and losses in World War II. Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Quote of the day

Somebody hacked a large video screen at Union Station in DC to make it play pornhub during rush hour.  I laughed out loud at this bit in the article:

Finally, an employee of the fast-casual restaurant Roti came over to the screen, and instructed another person on how to shut off the digital display, according to the woman who captured the incident on video. That woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want an article about porn to come up when people Google her name [emphasis mine], said other travelers took out their phones to record, too.

I’m not sure I would have had the foresight to realize to do the same.  Props to her.

Mueller? … Mueller?

This is big.  The fact that Trump totally trashed Rosenstein’s reputation on the Comey firing means Rosenstein wants to do what he can to salvage it. And, that means, appointing a serious special prosecutor.   This could ultimately prove to be some very, very bad news for Trump.  And, if there really is no there there, we can be confident in that result if that’s what Mueller determines.

Evan Osnos:

Rod Rosenstein’s decision is an important indication of the shifting mood in Washington: his appointment of Robert Mueller was an act of self-protection. A career prosecutor who was criticized for lending his voice to the firing of the former F.B.I. director James Comey, Rosenstein has chosen to hand off the Russia investigation, rejecting Republican leaders’ repeated statements that such a move was unnecessary, that he should soldier on amid criticisms of his independence. This is the move of a man who does not see his fate as strictly aligned with the President’s. The question facing Republicans in Congress and others throughout the executive branch is: How many are reaching the same conclusion?

Mueller has been handed what must be described as one of the most consequential jobs in American history, and his work could take months or years to complete. But—as I’ve written—investigations beget investigations. By reputation, Mueller is a meticulous investigator and fact-finder. He inspires bipartisan political support, and has abundant experience with pressure. President Trump just lost a lever with which to shape his own future.
John Cassidy:
Several aspects of this development are encouraging, beginning with the fact that it was Rosenstein who did the deed. With the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, having recused himself from dealing with the investigation following the revelation that he had made misleading statements about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Rosenstein demonstrated the independence for which he had been known until last week, when he wrote a memo to Sessions that effectively recommended the firing of James Comey, now the former head of the F.B.I.

Just minutes after Wednesday’s surprise announcement, some of Trump’s supporters were already accusing Rosenstein of buckling under pressure from Democrats and the mainstream media. What actually happened is that the legal system worked as it is meant to work. Given the revelation, earlier this week, that Trump allegedly asked Comey to drop the F.B.I.’s investigation of Michael Flynn, the former national-security adviser, and given the fact that Rosenstein himself was publicly associated with Comey’s dismissal, something had to be done to assure the public that the fix wasn’t in—that the Bureau’s investigators would pursue the Russia probe vigorously and professionally, regardless of where it took them.

Rosenstein, to his great credit, recognized this necessity and took action.

Josh Marshall:

First, this is a good pick.

Mueller has a strong reputation for professionalism. He was in DC for years. So people will have disagreements about this or that. He also headed the FBI for the whole post-9/11 era, during which the US pursued numerous highly controversial law enforcement and counter-terrorism policies. But with Mueller overseeing the investigation, I think that if anyone under scrutiny broke any laws they’re likely in pretty big trouble. For the purposes of this appointment, that’s what matters. I don’t think Mueller has any interest or willingness to cover for President Trump or any of his associates…

I still think Rosenstein deserves all the reputational damage he incurred over the last ten days or so. He knew what he was participating in when he involved himself in the Comey firing. What he probably didn’t realize was that Trump would essentially blame him for the decision. How much this is payback, an attempt to repair his reputation or simply put things right, you’re as good a judge as I am.

I believe this decision was close to inevitable. It is a major investigation, with a focus directly on the White House, with massive public interest. The President has already demonstrably tried to end the investigation. There’s simply no way that investigation can be credibly carried on by personnel serving at the pleasure of the President.

But here’s the key. This is important and necessary but not sufficient.

There also needs to be an independent commission to investigate what happened in the 2016 election. These two options – special counsel or independent commission – are often bandied about as two separate options, one or the other, or as steps of escalation in a scandal. None of those things is true.

Dana Milbank:

With the stroke of a pen, Rod Rosenstein redeemed his reputation, preserved the justice system, pulled American politics back from the brink — and, just possibly, saved the Republican Party and President Trump from themselves.

The deputy attorney general’s memo Wednesday night announcing that he had appointed Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia was pitch perfect in its simple justification: While he has not determined that any crime has been committed, he wrote that “based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

This is precisely what Rosenstein needed to do for all parties, but particularly for his own honor. Rosenstein, just two weeks into the job, had trashed the reputation he had built over the years as a fair-minded and above-the-fray prosecutor by allowing Trump to use him as cover for Trump’s own decision to sack FBI Director James Comey. Many who admired Rosenstein were stunned that he would let himself be used this way; I argued last week that “if he cares at all about rehabilitating the reputation he built, Rosenstein has one option: He can appoint a serious, independent and above-reproach special counsel — the sort of person Rosenstein was seen as, until this week — to continue the Russia probe.” In tapping Mueller — a solid figure who served ably as FBI director under two presidents — that’s what Rosenstein did…

In this sense, Rosenstein also did a favor for congressional Republicans. A minority of GOP lawmakers had begun to see the urgency of putting country before party. House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is retiring, had directed the FBI to turn over documents. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others have called for Comey to testify. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) invoked Watergate, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and several others joined calls for an independent commission or special prosecutor, and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said impeachment could be in order.


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