In a seismic shift, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce Thursday that he is rescinding a trio of memos from the Obama administration that adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.
While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, creating a conflict between federal and state law.
The main Justice Department memo addressing the issue, known as the "Cole memo" for then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013, set forth new priorities for federal prosecutors operating in states where the drug had been legalized for medical or other adult use. It represented a major shift from strict enforcement to a more hands-off approach, so long as they didn't threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and cartels.
The memo will be rescinded but it's not immediately clear whether Sessions will issue new guidance in its place or simply revert back to older policies that left states with legal uncertainty about enforcement of federal law.
The decision had been closely watched since Sessions was sworn in. He told reporters in November he was examining a "rational" policy.
That policy is now "Whatever the US attorney for the federal district wants to pursue" which could indeed lead to massive raids of state-legal pot shops and state-licensed growers across the country. I would suspect the first targets would be in blue states like California rather than say, Arizona or Montana but then again many of the states that do allow pot are pretty blue.
So far, Congress has put an amendment in appropriations bill that prevents the Justice Department from spending money on busting people in states where pot is legal. Ohio has a medical marijuana bill on the ballot in 2018, and Kentucky has long been trying to do the same. But if that amendment in appropriations goes (and Sessions has asked for that) I'm guessing this will have a big effect on that vote if feds start raiding dispensaries as "major drug-related financial crimes" and whatnot.
And speaking of feds raiding, that brings us to story number two, as I predicted earlier this week, the gap between Trump's "lock her up" tweets and Justice Department prosecution is rapidly closing. BUT HER EMAILS, THE REVENGE!
Justice Department officials are taking a fresh look at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, The Daily Beast has learned.
An ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is familiar with the thinking at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters described it as an effort to gather new details on how Clinton and her aides handled classified material. Officials’ questions include how much classified information was sent over Clinton’s server; who put that information into an unclassified environment, and how; and which investigators knew about these matters and when. The Sessions ally also said officials have questions about immunity agreements that Clinton aides may have made.
A former senior DOJ official familiar with department leadership’s thinking said officials there are acutely aware of demands from President Donald Trump that they look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state—and that they lock up her top aide, Huma Abedin.
For instance, Trump tweeted on Dec. 2, “Many people in our Country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails? No justice!”
The former official said tweets like this present two challenges for department leadership: looking into the matter in a way consistent with normal Justice Department approaches, and trying to avoid the appearance that they are trying “to put Huma in jail.”
A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment for this story.
It’s an open question as to whether Justice Department officials would have the same level of interest in Clinton’s server without a political directive from the White House, the former official said.
So Sessions is going after pot, and he's going after Trump's political enemies, and it's just Day 4 of 2018. Both are instances where Republicans are going after political enemies, in this case Clinton and California.
But then again, Sessions may not be around much longer, as we get to the third story.
Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should step aside "now," citing the Justice Department's handling of the investigation into President Donald Trump's campaign ties to Russian operatives and intelligence leaks to media as key concerns with his performance.
In a joint opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner, Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman and former chairman, respectively, of the influential conservative House Freedom Caucus, decried the "manufactured hysteria" over the probe into Russian election interference, faulting Sessions — who has recused himself from the inquiry — for allowing revelations about the investigation to reach the press.
Meadows and Jordan said that "in spite of the constant headlines, rampant speculation, and overshadowing of accomplishments, a simple truth remains: There is no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians."
The two GOP lawmakers also questioned why the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently did not interview George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, until January 2017. A New York Times report published over the weekend said Papadopoulos was aware of Russian intelligence on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which played a key role in the bureau opening a probe in July 2016 into Russian efforts to influence the U.S. elections.
"If Sessions can't address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now," the two GOP lawmakers wrote.
Going after Sessions from the right like this for failing to stop Mueller is pretty awful, the GOP has finally learned that the best way to get Trump to do something is raise enough of a stink to get it on FOX and Friends in the morning for him to watch.
This will certainly make the list.
Gonna be a long, long year.