U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive on Wednesday to federal prosecutors that rolls back an important Obama-era policy.
Under the Obama administration, federal prosecutors had been instructed by former Attorney General Eric Holder not to pursue charges with mandatory minimums for many criminals.
Axios reported on Friday Holder had instructed prosecutors to ensure “most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers.”
In a letter sent to federal prosecutors this week, Sessions reversed the Obama administration’s policy and directed prosecutors to “pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.”
“First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” Sessions wrote. “This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistence. This policy filly utilizes the tools Congress has given us.”
However, Sessions also said there are important and limited circumstances under which prosecutors should not pursue the most serious offense.
“There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted,” Sessions wrote. “In that case, prosecutors should carefully consider whether an exception may be justified. Consistent with longstanding Department of Justice policy, any decision to vary from the policy must be approved by a United States Attorney or Assistance Attorney General, or a supervisor designated by the United States Attorney or Assistance Attorney General, and the reasons must be documented in the file.”
Throughout his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump promised voters he’d be tougher on crime and reverse policies instituted by the Obama administrated that he believes are partly to blame for some of the country’s problems, especially in urban areas.
In a speech in February given to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Trump promised he would make good on his previous pledge.
“My message today is that you have a true, true friend in the White House. You have,” Trump said. “I stand with you. I support our police, I support our sheriffs, and we support the men and women of law enforcement. Right now, many communities in America are facing a public safety crisis.”