Our Editorial: Take the hint, Jeff Sessions

The Detroit News

Jeff Sessions should take the hint. His boss, President Donald Trump, told the New York Times last week that he wished he’d never hired the former Alabama senator as attorney general.

That’s as close as the president can get to saying, “You’re fired!” — without actually saying it.

Trump is upset that Sessions recused himself from the Russia election meddling probe, paving the way for a special prosecutor. Trump later switched and said he still had confidence in Sessions, but only after the attorney general said he would not resign and the president recognized the enormous backlash he’d get for firing him in retaliation.

Our beef with Sessions has nothing to do with the special prosecutor, but rather his discredited, old-school approach to law enforcement.

Shortly after assuming the post, Sessions reversed Justice Dept. policies put in place by former Attorney General Eric Holder that attempted to rationalize drug prosecutions and ease away from mass incarceration.

Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek maximum charges and sentences against drug offenders.

Sessions is a supply-side drug warrior, believing that crushing the pusher will save the user. That’s an approach that has failed for 50 years.

It will fail again if applied to opioid abuse, as Session intends. The right strategy for addressing the epidemic of deadly painkiller overdoses is to develop less addictive drugs for dealing with chronic pain. Research on marijuana derivatives shows some promise.

But Sessions dismissed any thought that pot might be the answer with a derisive laugh.

Last week, Sessions also reversed Obama administration policies to restrict civil forfeitures by federal agencies, even in cases where no criminal charges are filed against the person whose property is seized.

Civil forfeiture is an insult to due process and property rights. No self-respecting conservative should endorse such a big government intrusion on individual liberty.

Yet Sessions, who fancies himself the conservative’s conservative, is in full-throated support of this police state tactic.

Trump may want Sessions’ head for the wrong reasons. But his instincts are right. America does not need a rigid, puritanical attorney general who has no ability to learn from the past.