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tv   Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks to National Association of...  CSPAN  February 28, 2017 7:13pm-7:46pm EST

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congress. president trump: this congress is going to be the busiest congress we've had in decades. >> and following the speech, the response and your reaction to the president's speech, along with comments from members of congress. live tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span and cspan.org. and listen live on the free c-span radio app. >> attorney general jeff sessions today announced a new federal task force to address crime reduction and public safety. from the national association of attorneys general winter meeting in washington, this is 30 minutes. [applause]
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mr. jepsen: it's a great pleasure to introduce mr. sessions to this meeting. here to introduce him is luther strange. i'd like to recognize his new position, senator strange, come forward. [applause] for six years, luther served as an attorney general and was very active in the national association of attorneys general, serving on several committees and serving as southern chair. senator strange. mr. strange: thank you, george, mr. president. good morning, colleagues. i miss you all very much. already. it was a great honor to serve in this organization. it's been maybe once or twice that i've said, i can get my old job back, jeff? this is a wonderful organization. it's an honor to introduce my good friend, jeff sessions. i first met senator sessions a long time ago when i was a young person looking for advice on how to get involved and make a
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difference in the political world. and in our state. someone said, the first person you need to meet is a u.s. attorney in mobile named jeff sessions. he's just a wonderful person, he's a great -- he has a great future ahead of him and you need to meet him. as luck would have it, i was here in washington and this was way pre-9/11 in the old days, and so we made a plan to go meet. i made a plan to meet him at the cafeteria in the justice department. downstairs. so i walked in through the door and met him, we went through the cafeteria line and introduced him and i'm just this young guy trying to make a good impression. and he get his tray and goes to his table and i get there to the end of the line and look around and i have no wallet. [laughter] that's how long ago it was, that you could do that at the department of justice. so i had to walk over and tap him on the shoulder and say, can i borrow $5 to pay for my breakfast? [laughter] i've been in his debt ever since. literally. [laughter]
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we're very fortunate in this country to have a person of the character and experience of jeff sessions to take on the awesome responsibilities of the united states attorney general. at this time in our nation's history. and i'm so glad to be here to introduce him because he's one of us. he's a person that each one of the people around this table can relate to. he served for 14 years as a united states attorney in mobile. and many senior big time cases. then he served two years as a state attorney general. he's been in your seat. then he served in the united states senate for 20 years, including on the senate judiciary committee. so we couldn't be in better hands at the department of justice. i hope you'll join me in welcoming our attorney general, jeff sessions. [applause] mr. sessions: thank you all. oh, thank you. thank you so much. it's an honor. thank you. it's a real honor for me to be
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with you. to be back in this association. i would just remember -- i was just remembering, i paid my dues sporadically over the years, but georgia, i got a check here -- but, george, i got a check here, you fill it out. i need to get back in this group. i remember one of the meetings we had, i don't know, philadelphia or somewhere, and we were after hours talking and you learn things in these meetings. people said, if you're going to run for another office, run early. i had just gotten elected attorney general and someone announced they weren't running again. i thought about that. then the next few days later, i'm taking my walk back home in alabama and this guy jogs past me and he says, hey, jeff, run now while they still like you. [laughter] it's a tough job you have, right? you do your duty every day and
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some people don't like it and some people like it. there's just no charge, just do the right thing, best you can. and try to make the legal system work. we have the most remarkable, wonderful legal system the world has ever known. i truly believe that. and i had the opportunity to practice before federal judges, a lot more than i did state when i was attorney general for only two years. i just came to value it. somehow, some way, we muddled through all the disagreements and disputes and the cases that we handle and the system stands strong. wordselieve strongly that have meaning and laws should be enforced as they're written and we should try to be consistent in the application of law and that equal justice under law is an absolute critical thing for
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this country. we need to maintain that ideal. having traveled around the world , as part of the armed services committee, and seeing an attempt to help other countries have legal systems, and those attempts not be very successful, it's just driven home to me how blessed we are to have this heritage of law that we've been able to build on. there were jury trials in the colonies before the revolution. john adams defended british soldiers before the revolution. so we inherited this and we've built on it and the most sophisticated commercial cases, the most simple and violent crimes can be tried pretty effectively. and we have to maintain that, in my view. well, i can -- i think i'll just chat with you. i've got a nice speech here. but maybe we can just chat. i may lose my voice anyway
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before it's over. i've had a hard time. i came -- became assistant nited states attorney in 1975. and crime had been increasing for two decades. drugs were increasing dramatically. 50% of high school seniors had acknowledged they'd used an illegal drug that year. according to the university of michigan authoritative study. this was a bad trend. the mentality was nothing much could be done about it. prisons made people worse. prosecutions in crime were not effective. that criminals were victims. and victims were victims. and the police were victims and everybody was a victim. there wasn't much we could do about it. then we began to confront this situation because the people became so concerned about it. burglar bars and burglar alarms
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on everybody's homes, had never been done before. people never locked their doors before. in the 1950's. and so this was a big change. we began to focus on how to improve law enforcement. something i've just kind of watched, i've had an interest in over the years. it took some time, maybe 20 years, but the murder rate was half in america than what it had been. drug use was down among kids. we had prevention programs in every community. many of you and i spent a lot of my time working, trying to create a message of the danger of illegal drugs. and the crime does tend to follow drug use. if anybody's observed history, they know that's true. and so we made progress. then we got better policing techniques. you know, new york still incredibly effective reversal of
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the crime rate in new york city. community-based policing, broken windows and all those new techniques that came along that put police in the streets, out there, doing the things that are necessary. , it w we are at a time seems to me, crime is going back up again. you know, overall crime rate increased last year 3.5%. one of the bigger increases i think since 1991. murder rate was up 10.8% nationwide. and if you've seen in the papers, the "wall street journal" had a big article about it, certain major cities are seeing dramatic, i mean really dramatic, increases in murder rates. chicago, baltimore, new orleans. lots of this out there that's driving a sense that we're in
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danger. to y that we need to return the ideas that got us here. the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it. -- e we even got a bit of a bit confident when we saw the crime rate decline so steadily for so long. many of you have worked on this for years. you've been a part of the movement that's made our cities, counties and communities safer. we've saved how many thousands of lives, that have not been lost, how many thousands of people have not been injured? how many people have not seen their financial situation damaged severely by crime? so we've done a lot of good. we need to not give up on that progress. that is a thing that's concerned me the most. i do not believe, maybe i'm
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wrong, but i do not believe that this pop in crime, this increase in crime is necessarily an aberration, a one-time blip. i'm afraid it represents the beginning of a trend. and i think what really concerns me in the bottom of all that is also the increase in drugs in america. so they tend to follow one another. that's what happened in the 1960's and 1970's. and i think it could happen now. so i think we all have a charge to do better. president trump issued an order, he doesn't issue modest orders, he said to the attorney general, he said, the policy of this executive branch is to reduce crime in america. that's a pretty good goal for us. i like that. i'm trying -- i'm willing to try to meet that challenge. one of the big things out there that i think is causing trouble,
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and where you see the greatest increase in violence and murders cities is somehow, some way we undermine the respect for our police. and may oftentimes -- and make oftentimes their job more difficult. it's not been well received by them and we're not seeing the kind of effective community-based, street-based policing that we found to be so effective in reducing crime. i think. so the department of justice what has an absolute duty -- has an absolute duty to ensure that police operate within the law, and if they violate the law, they've committed a crime, just as much as any citizen who commits an assault. and we'll do our duty. i've done that as the united
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states attorney, to prosecute police officers who do wrong. but we need so far as we can, in my view, help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. i'm afraid we've done some of that. so we're going to try to pull back on this, and i don't think it's wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights. i think it's out of a concern to make the lives of people in particularly the poor communities, minority communities, live a safer, happier life. so that they're able to have their children outside and go to school in safety and they can go to the grocery store in safety and not be accosted by drug dealers and get caught in crossfires or have their children is he dulesed into some gang -- seduced into some gang. so we can do better about this. that is part of what my thoughts
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re about this whole situation. the drug thing is big. the president has also given me a direct order to take charge and lead an effort against drug .artels international drug cartels. and they are growing in strength. and we got so much of it coming right across the texas border, can l across the mention border. and we can do better there. we can do better attacking the distribution networks. and we have to start generally from my experience as a federal prosecutor with state and local cases. where someone catches a person, it turns out they identify them as a major part of an organization, and then the federal government, d.e.a. and other agencies, have the ability to issue interstate subpoenas and follow up on leads that the
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local sheriff or police chief can't do. then we work together to achieve progress. i am fully aware that, what, 85% of law enforcement in america is state and local. we're not going to fight crime effectively just from washington, d.c. that is obvious to anybody who can see that the sun is shining. so this is a big deal for us. to work together. we have had tremendous partnerships over the years. it started actually -- excuse me. when i became the united states attorney in 1981, rudy giuliani was the associate who had supervision over u.s. attorneys in those days. associate attorney general in washington. and he created the law enforcement coordinating
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committees, which i'm sure all of you are familiar with. and directed united states attorneys to listen to the local law enforcement community as to what they thought the threats were in their neighborhoods. something wasn't a big deal in mobile, alabama. i don't know about you. it wasn't a big deal in alabama. i thought it was an effective plan and i would like to see that kind of policy enhanced and moved forward. and restore that. i believe there's nothing wrong legally, morally or intellectually with a lawful system of immigration. it serves the national interest. what's wrong with that? that ouldn't we aspire to good goal? and the president has made clear his view on it. it's been mine for some time. and we're going to make progress about that. and in particular people who come here unlawfully who commit crimes are going to be out of
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here. the law says they have to be deported. we're going to insist that that appen. to confront them and take action against them if they don't take them back. we're housing a lot of people who committed serious crimes, who entered the country unlawfully, who have long since due to be deported. we're holding them because these countries won't take them back. there's just a lot of things that we can do in that regard. maybe we could -- i'd love to have any questions that you might have or really any suggestions you might have as to how this department of justice can better serve you and do the things that are necessary. i'll wrap up and just say this.
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at this point in history, i sense that we could be at a pivotal time. i sense that if we take the right actions now, affirm good, effective, proven law enforcement techniques, we can avoid another long-term surge in crime rates in america. if we don't take that action now, i'm afraid we're going to begin to see those kinds of trends continue, maybe even accelerate and have a lot of destruction, pain, prison, death in our country that could have been avoided. i value you. i appreciate the leadership you provide to this country. and your states. i know that i've been away from it for 20 years. although i've been on the judiciary committee for 20 years. i feel like i've lost some
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contact with what really is happening out there on the streets today. if will you work with me, i would be pleased to work with you. i believe we can do some good work for this great republic. thank you all. god bless. [applause] mr. jepsen: questions come from a.g.'s only. thank you. [laughter] mr. sessions: anything to comment? yes, sir. questioner: general, javier becerra from california. a former member of the -- member of the house until i was confirmed earlier this year by our governor to replace harris who is now a colleague in the senate. the senator who is here. thank you for your service. appreciate your being here. i agree with you that we're not going to be able to fight crime effectively from washington, d.c. many of us now have the charge
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to try to protect the people of our states. i also agree with you when you say that people who commit crimes in this country and who have come into the country unlawfully should be out of here. so i hope that we're able to continue to work together in that regard. in california we have seen crime rates drop since the 19 0s and 1990's and look, san francisco, sacramento, big cities have seen that as well. one of the reasons we believe we've been able to succeed in bringing crime down is because we have the cooperation of folks throughout the communities. who we need as witnesses. who we need to have cooperate with us when crimes do occur. we are finding, though, that some of the actions that the administration is taking with regard to enforcing immigration laws is causing a lot of fear throughout our state and people who are here without documents but aren't committing crimes. they're beginning to fear approaching law enforcement authorities for fear that they
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may be also apprehended in the process of trying to be witnesses on crimes. i would urge you to take a look at the process of how from washington, d.c., you try to help us provide public safety to our people. because our police and sheriffs departments have developed very strong working relationships with all the neighborhoods throughout the state of california. we'd like to continue to see that. and we'd like to continue the good relationship we've had in the past with the federal government. because we also want to interdict the drugs and stop the human trafficking, we want to make sure that we go after the gangs. we want to make sure we can do that with the cooperation of everyone in the communities and we hope we can count on your support. mr. sessions: thank you. well, we willly work together on that -- we will certainly work together on that. we are having some disagreements in certain areas with state and local governments over the detainers and those kinds of things. which i think we've got to work through. to me, a shocking thing that we don't have universal respect
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between law enforcement agencies . where when one has charges, the other turns over the offender to those distribute next jurisdiction, to carry outer the -- out the justice punishments -- just punishments. we'll have to wrestle with. that it's going to be a tough challenge. i understand the argument that you've made. we've heard it before. it has a certain validity to. it but there are other countervailing arguments and principles that are at work. i think we will do our best to be clear and firm and fair and responsible in the positions we take. we do not need to have a big brawl between our law enforcement agencies if we can avoid that -- agencies, if we could avoid that, i would be pleased. questioner: we look forward to orking with you. questioner: hey, general sessions.
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i saw you yesterday. pam b,, -- bondi. mr. sessions: i couldn't see. light was in my eyes. questioner: i saw. the one thing, general, that i can tell you, i know i can speak for all 56 of us, is this war on drugs. and thank you for talking about that. thank you for your commitment to that. as you know, the not that the old drugs, the cocaine, it's the new heroin in a pill form. it's fentanyl, it's the things that they're -- that they're mixing together and putting in zahn ax pills and adderall pills. we're fighting a new war. and thank you for being our partner on that. we all look forward to working with you on that. because it's killing our kids. it's killing our citizens. every day. and i know you, and know how tough you're going to be on that. so thank you. mr. sessions: thank you. thank you. the death now is, what, 120 a day from overdose. heroin deaths have tripled in
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just four or five years. tripled. heroin overdose deaths. and fentanyl is a part of that. which i'm learning from law enforcement, worse problem than i understood. so we'll continue to work on it. my view is that crime does follow drugs. in the 1970's and 1980's we saw so many lives destroyed by drug abuse. and i think the drugs today are more powerful. they're more addictive. they can destroy even more lives. young people have their lives destroyed. i, as you know, am dubious about marijuana. states can pass whatever laws they choose but i'm not sure we're going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store. i just don't think that's going to be a good -- good for us. we'll have to work our way
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through that. i saw a line in the "the washington post" today that i remember from the 1980's. this one was, if you smoke -- you know, marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse. give me a break. i mean, you know, this is the kind of argument that has been made out there. almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. i doubt that's true. maybe science will prove i'm wrong. but at this point in time, you and i have a responsibility to use our best judgment, that which we've learned over a period of years, and speak the truth as best we can. my best view is that we don't need to be legalizing marijuana. and we need to crack down more effectively on heroin. and fentanyl. and other drugs. and part of the federal leadership will be drug
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distribution networks, cartels that threaten the very governments of nations to our south. and less money that they extract out of america it sends to their power, less power and less danger they present to their governments and their people. fewer people that are addicted. i was shocked. is it mike dewine here? hey, mike dewine. we sat by each other on the senate judiciary committee for 10 years. he's a great guy. he was just tell me not long ago about -- telling me not long ago about the cheapness of heroin in ohio. i was really surprised how available it is. the new england journal of medicine, yes, we have a big prescription drug problem. i'm telling you, we can do better about that. anything -- if i have any ability to do something about
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it, we're going to reduce the availability of prescription drugs. that's swace easier, i think -- some ways easier, i think. but the heroin thing, according to the new england journal of medicine, says that the problem we're seeing is more availability, lower price, and higher purity. that's pretty much a law enforcement thing. more availability, higher purity, and lower price. that translates into more drug abuse, more heroin abuse, if we don't watch it. mike, good to see you. thanks for your advice on that. and other subjects. mr. jepsen: we have time for one more question. mr. sessions: are you going to call it? [laughter] i see this one in the middle. questioner: general sessions, thanks for being here. tim fox from montana. roadway -- recognizinging that
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each state has its uniqueness, if you will in montana we have a number of federally recognized and one state-recognized indian reservation. indian country, as you know, we have this unique set of jurisdictional issues. with sovereign nations. and we have kind of a hodgepodge, if you will, of criminal jurisdiction. i would just -- this is more of an invitation than a question. but i would just invite to you engage those of us who have any reservations to discuss -- indian reservations to discuss how we can do better in indian country in protecting our citizens, and making sure that all levels of government are working hand in hand together appropriately, respecting the sovereignty of our indian nations, to make sure that we're doing our best to keep people safe in indian country. i would invite you, if i can be so bold, general jepsen, to come to montana, this is unabashed
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here -- [laughter] the summer meeting of the national association of attorneys general in big sky, montana, on june 20, 21 and 22. [laughter] and while you're there, while you're in montana, sir, we'd love to visit with you about indian country and public safety. thank you. mr. sessions: thank you. that's a big part, a big challenge for the department of justice. it really is. we had one indian tribe, small tribe, in my district. only one in alabama. i learned something about the challenges and legal issues. in going around talking to my colleagues in the senate prior to confirmation, which didn't do a lot of good for a lot of that, but -- [laughter] i listened and said i'd remember what i heard. i heard a lot about this issue. it really is an issue that hopefully we can do better.
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i would seek your advice on it. let me again thank you for the opportunity to be with you. to tell you that we've announced today the establishment of a federal task force that will bring in the work and advice of all our state and local officials. and this task force will be designed to execute what the president has asked us to do and that's reduce crime america. make our communities safer. i think that's a worthy and noble goal. i think there are things we can do that will make a difference. i am not hopeless about it. i don't think it's subject to forces, all of them, beyond our control. we can make a difference. i look forward to working with you to make this country safer and i appreciate that opportunity. thank you all. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
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visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> a live look here in statuary hall on capitol hill where members of the senate will soon walk to join law makers in the house chamber for tonight's address by president trump. our preview program begins in about 15 minutes here on c-span. the president is set to speak live at 9:00 p.m. eastern. who else will be there? representative bobby scott tweets that he's honored to have norfolk state university president eddie moore as my guest to tonight's joint session. picture with my staff who are spartan alumni. and senator shaheen says, jennifer frazell is my guest at the joint session. representing the thousands of new hampshire women who depend on planned parenthood. and c-span talked with bloomberg news' supreme court reporter about the traditions of joint sessions. reporter: supreme court reporter with bloomberg. tell us what the role is of the justices on the night of the state of the union, or in this
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case, andreas to congress. >> it's really just to be there. they don't all go. but they go, they listen, they generally don't applaud at any of the other big applause lines. they're just there to be a presence, represent one branch of government. reporter: do all the justices go? if not, why not? >> they don't all go. it's up to them. each individually. some of them go all the time. justice breyer has gone i think every year or at least almost every year since he's been a justice. other justices, like justice scalia, before he died, hadn't been in a couple decades. some of them just don't like to go. and as a matter of course don't. reporter: will it be that we won't see some liberal justices there? >> it's possible. the four democratic appointees on the court all went on a regular basis when president obama was president. with president trump now in particular it will be interesting to see whether justice ginsburg attends. she tended not to go wheor

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