ON SATURDAY, “COURTSIDE” & SLATE’S JEREMY STAHL GAVE YOU THE “REAL LOWDOWN” ON AAG RACHEL BRAND’S “FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE!” — Two Days Later, NBC News Confirms What We Already Said!

Here’s a link to the prior blog on immigrationcourtside.com:

https://wp.me/p8eeJm-26R

Here’s the NBC report by one of my favorite Washington reporters, Julia Edwards Ainsley:

http://nbcnews.to/2CfKuHi

Julia reports:

“WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said.

She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.

Sources: Brand left DOJ over fear of overseeing Russia probe 3:40

As far back as last fall, Brand had expressed to friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job, especially as many key positions under her jurisdiction had still not been filled with permanent, Senate-confirmed officials.

Four of the 13 divisions overseen by the associate attorney general remain unfilled, including the civil rights division and the civil division, over one year into the Trump administration.

While Brand has largely stayed out of the spotlight, public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by President Donald Trump worried Brand that Rosenstein’s job could be in danger.

Should Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter.

The Justice Department pushed back on NBC’s report.

“It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking. All of this is false and frankly ridiculous,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores.

Brand has had a long legal career that has spanned several administrations, including under Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush.

In announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Brand as “a lawyer’s lawyer,” noting that she graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked at the Supreme Court.

In the same statement, Brand said, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

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Undoubtedly, the DOJ under Trump and Sessions has made some great strides in attacking the rule of law, undermining social justice, mal-administering the Immigration Courts, eroding the credibility of DOJ attorneys in court, and generally diminishing the quality and fairness of the justice system in the United States.

While those might give Rachel “bragging rights” over at Wal-Mart or in right-wing legal circles, I don’t see that they are anything to “write home about.”  Hopefully, at some point in the future, having served as a politico in the Trump/Sessions DOJ will become a “career killer” for any future Government appointments.

But, in today’s topsy-turvy legal-political climate, it’s still a shrewd “self-preservation” move on Brand’s part. And, she’s somewhat less likely to be stomping on anyone’s civil rights over at Wal-Mart (although you never know when an opportunity to dump on the civil rights of the  LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, women, the poor, or to promote religious intelerance might present itself in a corporate setting).

Looking forward to more DOJ reporting from the super-talented Julia! I’ve missed her on the “immigration beat!”

PWS

02-12-18

 

 

 

JUSTIN GEORGE @ VICE – HOW TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE TRASHING AMERICA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM!

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbpnkb/trump-has-already-demolished-obamas-criminal-justice-legacy

George writes:

“This story was published in partnership with the Marshall Project.

On criminal justice, Donald J. Trump’s predecessor was a late-blooming activist. By the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, his administration had exhorted prosecutors to stop measuring success by the number of defendants sent away for the maximum, taken a hands-off approach to states legalizing marijuana and urged local courts not to punish the poor with confiscatory fines and fees. His Justice Department intervened in cities where communities had lost trust in their police.

In less than a year, President Trump demolished Obama’s legacy.



In its place, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has framed his mission as restoring the “rule of law”, which often means stiffening the spines and limiting the discretion of prosecutors, judges and law officers. And under President Trump’s “America first” mandate, being tough on crime is inextricably tied to being tough on immigration.

“I think all roads in Trump’s rhetoric and Sessions’s rhetoric sort of lead to immigration,” said Ames Grawert, an attorney in the left-leaning Brennan Center’s Justice Program who has been studying the administration’s ideology. “I think that’s going to make it even harder for people trying to advance criminal justice reform because that’s bound up in the president’s mind, in the attorney general’s mind, as an issue that they feel very, very passionately on—restricting immigration of all sorts.”

Here are nine ways Trump has transformed the landscape of criminal justice, just one tumultuous year into his presidency.

He changed the tone

Words matter, and Trump’s words were a loud, often racially charged departure from the reformist talk of being “smart on crime” and making police “guardians, not warriors.” His response to a New York City terrorist truck attack last year reflects the new tone:

“We… have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said. “They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be—who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice—much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”

The president’s rhetoric seemed to trickle down. Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, adopted what many call “Trumpism” during his fall campaign, vilifying Democrat Ralph Northam as being soft on crime. His ads accused Democrats of restoring the voting rights of a child pornography collector—targeting one man out of the 168,000 former felons who had had their voting rights restored.

In a hotly contested Alabama senate race, Trump accused the Democrat—a prosecutor who had won convictions against two Klansmen who helped plot the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls—of being “soft on crime.”

While both of the Republicans lost, prisoner advocates worry the discourse has re-sparked irrational fears and will spook conservatives who have in recent years joined the reform movement. And Trump has not limited his target set to Democrats. He has attacked members of his own party, like Arizona senator Jeff Flake, as “weak on crime and border.”

He wants to keep the “mass” in mass incarceration

Of all the moves Sessions made in 2017, none brought as much consternation from all sides of the political spectrum—from the Koch brothers and Rand Paul to the ACLU and Cory Booker—as this: He revoked the Obama-era instruction to federal prosecutors to be more flexible in charging low-level, nonviolent offenders. Under this policy, federal prosecutions had declined for five consecutive years and, in 2016, were at their lowest level in nearly two decades, according to the Pew Research Center.

Sessions ordered prosecutors to seek the maximum punishment available, prompting widespread fear of a return to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the federal prisons filled with drug offenders. In what it is calling a budget cut, the Bureau of Prisons has also ordered the closure of several halfway houses, which can extend the length of time soon-to-be released prisoners are spending behind bars.

The administration has also cast doubt on the prospect of legislation aimed at reducing mandatory-minimum sentences and encouraging diversion to drug treatment and mental health care. Governors and advocates who boast of success at reducing state prison populations—notably in red states—met with the president and son-in-law Jared Kushner on January 11 to plead for similar measures in the federal system, but the discussion was largely confined to rehabilitating the incarcerated rather than incarcerating fewer people in the first place. While sentencing reform seems to be fading, there appears to be progress toward a Kushner-led crusade that calls on churches and private businesses to mentor prisoners upon release and help them find jobs and housing. Trump may also look to cut regulations such as licensing requirements that prohibit applicants with felony records from some lines of work.

He made immigration synonymous with crime

Perhaps the most consistent theme of his young administration is that immigrants, especially immigrants of color, are a danger. From the Mexican “rapists” to the “shithole countries” of the third world, the president has played to a base that believes—evidence to the contrary—that immigrants bring crime and displace American workers.

Deportation orders have surged. The Department of Justice said in early December that total orders of removal and voluntary departures were up 34 percent compared with the same time in 2016. Actual removals have not kept pace—in fact, they were at their lowest level since 2006, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University—but it is clear the Trump administration is ramping up ways to deport undocumented immigrants.

The declared ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was met with wide consternation from Republicans and Democrats, and is being fought out in courts and bipartisan political negotiations. Trump has given mixed signals as to whether the DACA recipients, brought into the US illegally as children, get to stay, and at what political price. But in the meantime he has ordered an end to protection of refugees from Haiti (at least 60,000) and El Salvador (at least 200,000) who were granted temporary legal status under a bill signed by the first President Bush. And just the other day Sessions limited the power of immigration judges to close complicated cases, a move that could lead to thousands more deportations.

The immigrants-as-menace meme recurs in the argument over “sanctuary cities,” where officials have declined to help in the roundup of the undocumented. Sessions has threatened to withhold federal policing funds from uncooperative venues, so far unsuccessfully.”

*****************************************

Read the rest of the article at the link.

Ah, the “New American Gulag!”

PWS

01-23-18

GONZO’S WORLD: HOW’S HE ABUSING HIS OFFICE AND WASTING YOUR MONEY NOW? – BY BATTLING 12-YR-OLD GIRL WITH EPILEPSY IN COURT!

http://www.newsweek.com/jeff-sessions-war-pot-goes-court-attorney-general-will-fight-12-year-old-780749?utm_source=email&utm_medium=morning_brief&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=read_more&spMailingID=2801752&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=950839943&spReportId=OTUwODM5OTQzS0

Science Editor Kate Sheridan reports for Newsweek:

“A 12-year-old suing the federal government may have a whiff of adorableness. But for Alexis Bortell, who filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions last fall, it’s a choice she had to make to save her life. Alexis has epilepsy, and Sessions has made it his mission to make it impossible for her to access the only drug that has kept her seizures at bay: cannabis.

A Scream of Terror

Alexis doesn’t remember her first seizure. But her father, Dean Bortell, does.

“We were literally folding clothes, and Alexis was sleeping on the couch,” Bortell told Newsweek. “All of a sudden, I heard her make this shriek—I mean, it was a scream of terror,” he said. “I look over, and Alexis is stiff as a board, on her back, spasming.”

At first, Bortell suspected his daughter had a brain-eating amoeba on account of headlines about them that summer and took her to the hospital. Within hours, it became clear something else was wrong. Alexis was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2013.

Three years ago, Alexis began taking medical marijuana, and her seizures disappeared. But that treatment option is threatened by an aggressive federal crackdown on medicinal cannabis led by Sessions, who is also the acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Her day in court—February 14, at a New York City federal courthouse—is fast approaching. Alexis won’t be there in person, but her lawyer, Michael Hiller, thinks the ruling will go their way.

“We are very optimistic that the case is going to come out the way it should, which is that the Controlled Substances Act is going to be found unconstitutional,” Hiller said. Several other plaintiffs—a former professional football player, a veteran and another child—are also included.”

*******************************************

Read the rest of Sheridan’s article at the above link.

So, when he’s not out picking on African-Americans, Hispanics, Immigrants, or Gays, seizing private property without due process, screwing up the U.S. Immigration Courts, or spreading false narratives about crime, Gonzo gets his jollies by wasting the USG’s time and resources to make the life of a 12-year-old with epilepsy worse. What else does he have up his sleeve? This is what we should expect from our senior public servants?

PWS

01-19-18

 

GONZO’S WORLD: WASHPOST EDITORIALS RIP GONZO’S BOGUS “CRIME WAVE” & “REEFER MADNESS!” – Is He “On The Ropes?” – Don’t Count On It – NBC Describes How He’s The “Ultimate Survivor!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jeff-sessions-says-theres-a-staggering-increase-in-homicides-the-data-dont-agree/2018/01/05/b0ae52fa-f169-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

Jeff Sessions says there’s ‘a staggering increase in homicides.’ The data disagree.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the White House in Washington on March 27, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
January 5

“PRESIDENT TRUMP rode a claim of out-of-control crime — to be fought with “law and order” — to victory in 2016. He reinforced the message in his inaugural address about “American carnage.” So it’s no surprise that Attorney General Jeff Sessions harps on the same theme, most recently on Wednesday, when he issued a statement describing this as a “time of rising violent crime [and] a staggering increase in homicides.” As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr. Sessions can and should use his bully pulpit to raise justified concern about crime and violence; his latest remarks, however, constituted a misuse of that power. Currently available data do not support his alarmism.

The most recent FBI national crime reports do indeed show that both murder and violent offenses generally rose in 2015 and 2016. The murder rate had risen from at least a 54-year low of 4.4 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 5.3 at the end of 2016. This reversal of a long and positive trend in American society cries out for thoughtful analysis and response. We’re still waiting for the 2017 FBI data, which won’t be out until later this year.

Meanwhile, private sources have been crunching the 2017 numbers reported by the police of the largest cities — generally indicative of the national total, since homicide is overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon. The basic picture is that homicide probably dippedslightly last year. Through Dec. 16, the total number of homicides in the nation’s 30 largest cities was 4.4 percent below what it was at the same point in 2016, according to the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice. The Brennan Center is a liberal nonprofit that frequently criticizes the Trump administration, but its numbers come from police agencies and city reports, and its findings agree with those of independent crime analyst Jeff Asher of FiveThirtyEight. His study of public data from 54 cities with 250,000 or more residents showed that murder is down 2.75 percent over 2016.

Mr. Sessions’s statement came in the context of his announcement of new interim U.S. attorneys, including for Manhattan and Brooklyn. Yet the nation’s largest city recorded only 290 homicides in 2017 — a decline of nearly 90 percent over the past quarter century. Mr. Sessions could just as easily have taken the opportunity to send the Big Apple and the other improving cities his congratulations.”

****************************************************

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sessionss-unwise-move-on-marijuana-may-backfire/2018/01/06/12216a4a-f264-11e7-b3bf-ab90a706e175_story.html

Sessions’s unwise move on marijuana may backfire

January 6 at 7:39 PM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing the federal government back into marijuana enforcement. This is an unwise and unnecessary move that may divert resources from more serious problems — and end up backfiring on those who want to restrain pot use.

Mr. Sessions rescinded Thursday a policy that kept the federal government largely out of the way of states that have legalized marijuana. A majority of states have now legalized it in some form. Maryland just began permitting medical marijuana. California just legalized recreational marijuana, and Vermont is near to doing so.

Mr. Sessions’s move upended a tenuous deal the Obama administration made with legalization states: keep pot out of minors’ hands and help combat trafficking, and federal authorities will focus on bigger priorities. This policy allowed a handful of states room to experiment with unencumbered legalization, which would have made the consequences clearer to others.

Mr. Sessions’s decision is unlikely to result in arrests of small-time marijuana users. But it will chill the growth of the aboveboard weed economy by deterring banks and other institutions from participating. From there, U.S. attorneys across the country will decide whether to crack down, and on whom — a few big distributors, perhaps, or a few local grow shops, too. In states with complex regulations on marijuana growing, testing and selling, some operations may move back underground rather than provide documentation to state authorities that federal prosecutors might later use against them.

Mr. Sessions’s move is counterproductive even for skeptics of legalization, whose only defense against a growing tide of public opinion would be evidence that full legalization has significant negative consequences. Mr. Sessions’s move diminishes the possibility of drawing lessons — including cautionary ones — from the examples of legalization states. Similarly, Mr. Sessions has made it harder to learn how to regulate the legitimate weed economy, if that is the path the country chooses.

Jars of medical marijuana are on display on the counter of Western Caregivers Medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)

More concerning is the prospect that U.S. attorneys will begin diverting limited federal resources into anti-pot campaigns from far more pressing matters. As Mr. Sessions himself said this past November, the nation is experiencing “the deadliest drug crisis in American history.” That would be the opioid epidemic, which, Mr. Sessions noted, claimed some 64,000 lives in 2016. Marijuana simply does not pose the same threat, and the attorney general should have avoided any suggestion that it requires more attention right now.

Mr. Sessions’s decision will spur calls for Congress to finally change federal law. That is warranted, but lawmakers should be wary of swinging too far in the opposite direction. As a recent National Academies of Science review found, experts still know relatively little about marijuana’s health effects. It makes no sense to lock up small-time marijuana users, but it may not make sense to move quickly to national legalization. Rather, Congress should decriminalize marijuana use, then await more information.”

***********************************************

Obviously, Gonzo isn’t “winning friends and (favorably) influencing people” with his with his various personal vendettas. And, Trump trashes him one day and pats him on the back the next. But, that doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere soon. Ironically, Senate Democrats, who once called for his resignation, are now defending him in light of calls from various GOP legislators for him to step down.  Also ironically, it’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Gonzo doesn’t even supervise, who’s probably his “job insurance.” Jonathan Allen at NBC News explains how Gonzo has become the “ultimate survivor” of the Trump Administration.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/why-attorney-general-jeff-sessions-survives-trump-s-wrath-n835251

“POLITICS

Why Attorney General Jeff Sessions survives Trump’s wrath

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is taking so much friendly fire these days that it’s easy to conclude he might soon be shown the Justice Department exit.

President Donald Trump has long been apoplectic over Sessions’ recusal from the Justice Department’s Russia probe — as well as the agency’s passing interest in allegations of misconduct by Trump’s vanquished rival, Hillary Clinton — and the president often criticizes Sessions, the Justice Department and the FBI publicly.

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times … and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?” Trump wrote on Twitter last month.

Three House Republicans — Chris Stewart of Utah, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina — called on Sessions to resign this week. In an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Meadows and Jordan argued that leaks about the Russia investigation show the attorney general doesn’t have control over his department. And there have been reportsthat EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is lining himself up to try to take Sessions’ job.

Third Republican calls for Sessions to resign 0:48

Things have gotten so bad for Sessions that his chief defenders this week were the very same Senate Democrats that had railed against his appointment last year, a function of their fear that a new attorney general would be both more loyal to Trump and more able to affect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

It all adds up to the kind of drumbeat that usually portends the political demise of a Cabinet official.

But on Saturday, Trump sought to quiet Sessions’ critics. Asked whether he stands by his attorney general, Trump replied, “Yes, I do.”

It may be that Sessions is untouchable. At the very least, veteran Washington insiders say, he’s shown a survivor’s instincts for dealing with Trump.

“Sessions has figured out a way to appease Trump at the moments where his ire is at its maximum,” said Brian Fallon, a former Obama Justice Department and Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman who also worked on Capitol Hill. “Sessions finds ways to relieve some of the tension.”

In the latest example, Trump’s fury may have been tempered this week by reports that Sessions’ Justice Department has been investigating the Clinton Foundation and is taking another look at Clinton’s private email server. Trump had publicly pressured Sessions to investigate longtime top Clinton aide Huma Abedin over her handling of classified information.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in an email that the possibility of Sessions losing his job is a “non story” that has been “ginned up by the media.”

But even if he’s not fully pleased with Sessions, Trump may be stuck with him.

On a political level, it’s not clear whether any possible replacement could win Senate confirmation at a time when two GOP defectors would be enough to scuttle a nomination.

And there’s also the tricky legal question of whether firing Sessions could be interpreted as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Mueller probe, especially after The New York Times reported that a Sessions aide tried to dig up dirt on James Comey when the former FBI director testified that his agency was examining possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

While Sessions may be secure, his No. 2, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, may not be if Trump continues to be displeased with the progress of Mueller’s investigation. With Sessions recused, it’s Rosenstein who oversees Mueller. If Trump decides he wants to fire Mueller, that order would go through Rosenstein, which could set up the kind of constitutional crisis that faced Justice Department executives during the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre.

Back then, President Richard Nixon wanted to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal. The top two justice department officials resigned rather than carry out his order, and Cox was eventually fired by Solicitor General Robert Bork at Nixon’s direction. Nixon won the battle but the backlash from his heavy-handed tactics accelerated his defeat in the war to keep his job. The House began impeachment hearings less than two weeks later.

That history is reason enough for Trump to think twice about cashiering Sessions or any other senior Justice Department official.”

*******************************************

Gonzo’s attacks on African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ individuals, state and local officials, and legalized marijuana merchants and users, among others, is an anathema to effective law enforcement! Indeed, these are just the communities whose support and assistance Gonzo and the DOJ would need to actually be effective in fighting serious crime.

Moreover, his false crusades against these groups have made him ignore America’s most pressing problem: combatting the opioid crisis, which would require not just law enforcement but a coordinated effort among Federal, state and local law enforcement, local communities, and medical,social, welfare, and economic development entities, all of which Gonzo has gone out of his was to “dis” or otherwise offend.

On the other hand, as pointed out by Jonathan Allen, for reasons unrelated to his unrelentingly poor administration of “justice,” Sessions might be in charge of his own destiny at the DOJ.

PWS

01-07-18

GONZO’S WORLD: BRINGING AMERICA TOGETHER: Sessions’s Retrograde Policies Are Teeing Off GOP Conservatives Too! – PLUS BONUS COVERAGE – Jimmy Kimmel Shows You Why Gonzo Hates Weed So Much!

https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-even-republicans-hate-jeff-sessionss-ne/f-db53494b3e%2Fvice.com

Eve Peyser reports for VICE:

“I think Jeff Sessions has forgotten about the constitution and the tenth amendment,” California Republican Dana Rohrabacher said in a Thursday press call with four other pro-marijuana legalization congresspeople. The call was in response to the announcement that day by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withdraw the Cole memo, an Obama-era policy that effectively instructed feds to lay off marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the drug except in cases where, for instance, dealers were sending pot across state lines. Under Sessions’s new policy, US attorneys have the discretion to prosecute weed cases.

“Do you know anyone who supports the attorney general’s decision?” a reporter asked during the call. No, replied members of the Cannabis Caucus.

As the bipartisan group of lawmakers emphasized throughout the call, the idea of the Department of Justice going after legal marijuana businesses in the eight states—and the District of Colombia—that have voted to legalize the drug infringes on states’ rights and goes against the will of the people. It can’t be emphasized enough that prosecuting marijuana cases is unpopular: 64 percent of Americans, and 51 percent of Republicans, favor federal legislation.

The reasons are obvious enough. “Marijuana is a lot better than alcohol. I want to stress that because alcohol creates violence, and I’ve seen great people cut somebody’s head off drunk. You don’t see that with marijuana. I’m not condoning it. I’m saying that was the effect upon them, and now they smoke,” Alaska Congressman Don Young, told me last April.

Studies have shown that it’s safer to consume than alcohol or tobacco, two drugs that are legal to use in the United States. Nevertheless, in Sessions’s reversal of the Cole memo, he asserted, “Marijuana is a dangerous drug and… marijuana activity is a serious crime.” (Sessions once reportedly quipped that he used to think Klu Klux Klan “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.”)

Congress has been quick to condemn Sessions’s latest anti-legal marijuana decree. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s Republican senator, vowed to hold up “DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.” (The commitment being that he would leave legal weed alone.)

“Effectively, this leaves the legal status of marijuana up to 93 US attorneys across the country. Whatever side of the bed these government bureaucrats wake up on can literally determine the freedom and liberty or the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of American citizens,” Colorado Democrat Jared Polis explained during Thursday’s call.

“I’m convinced that the backlash that a number of my colleagues have talked about is going to be felt. I think the Attorney General is actually creating problems for the Trump administration,” Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer added.

Even members of Congress who hadn’t been explicitly pro-marijuana legalization before this move spoke out in support of state marijuana laws. “Although I did not support the 2014 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, it strongly passed and I passionately believe in democracy and the principles of states’ rights,” Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, wrote in a press release on Thursday. “Today’s action by the Department of Justice…could be the impetus necessary for Congress to find a permanent legislative solution for states that have chosen to regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana.”

I couldn’t find any senator or representative who has gone on the record supporting Sessions’s latest move, though it was cheered by anti-marijuana groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “This is a good day for public health. The days of safe harbor for multi-million dollar pot investments are over,” SAM president Kevin A. Sabet said in a press release. “DOJ’s move will slow down the rise of Big Marijuana.”

Although the congresspeople from states with legal weed are concerned about Sessions changing DOJ policy, they were quick to point out that even after the Cole memo was issued in 2013, Obama’s DOJ was still somewhat hostile to legal marijuana. The solution, they believe, is passing a bill that prevents the federal government from interfering with state marijuana rights, and ending federal marijuana prohibition.

“The Cole [memo] wasn’t going to make it any easier or anymore difficult to put into legislation those things that we really need to put in [to protect legal marijuana],” Rohrabacher said. “As we go back into the session, there would be no open discussion of it, and our constituencies wouldn’t have been alerted of it had the Cole memo not been withdrawn. So this is a big plus for our efforts.”

Meanwhile, in this video, Jimmy Kimmel graphically explains why Gonzo hates weed so much:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jimmy-kimmel-jeff-sessions-hates-marijuana_us_5a509e26e4b003133ec809d9

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I guess that the GOP is OK with “Gonzo Enforcement Policies” as long as they just target the “usual suspects:” Blacks, Latinos, Foreigners, the LGBTQ Community, Women who seek to exercise their abortion rights, leftist protesters, Democrats, etc.

But when they start “hitting home” — particularly with profitable and popular industries in their own states — well, not so much. And, they are “surprised” that the Constitution and past promises mean nothing where Gonzo’s personal views on the law and policy are involved?

Ironically, Gonzo’s latest “tone deaf” decision to potentially waste resources on enforcement almost nobody wants could actually ignite the legislative process to remove marihuana prohibitions from Federal law.

PWS

01-06-17

 

GONZO’S WORLD: “MINISTRY OF INJUSTICE” — How Gonzo Is Successfully Draining Justice From The Department Of Justice

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/jeff-sessions-slowly-surely-undoing-america-s-criminal-justice-progress-ncna823126

James Braxton Peterson reports for NBC News:

“The Russia investigation may be undercutting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ credibility, but it has not undermined his efforts to take the U.S. Justice Department back in time.

The time Sessions wants to go back to features an unforgiving system of mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color in a legal structure too often stacked against them.

To do this, the attorney general has issued a slew of policy rollbacks — unfortunate for a Justice Department that was only incrementally making progress toward equal justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

In this sense, Sessions’ Justice Department might be the most effective unit of the Trump administration. If Trumpism’s goal is, at least in, part to destroy the progress achieved under the Obama administration, Sessions’ scorecard so far outstrips his GOP colleagues in the Cabinet and former colleagues in the Senate.

In March, for example, the nation’s top law enforcement officer visited St. Louis, next-door to Ferguson, ground zero for the Black Lives Matter movement. Sessions was in St. Louis talking about crime initiatives but also seeming to criticize one of the most useful tools for documenting police brutality: civilian cell phone videos. The choice of venue could not have been a coincidence. By focusing on “targeted police killings,” he deflected attention from the challenges now confronting law enforcement.

In fact, Sessions has had little to say on how the Justice Department might address matters of police brutality, much less on the matter of Black Lives Mattering. Instead, he has mostly showcased President Donald Trump’s belief that strong policing and incarceration are key to maintaining law and civil order.

. . . .

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts. Because the statistics are well known: Whites and blacks use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, and African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. Yet law enforcement records are remarkably different for each demographic. According to Human Rights Watch: “Black adults are more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white adults to be arrested for drug possession. In 2014, Black adults accounted for just 14 percent of those who used drugs in the previous year but close to a third of those arrested for drug possession.” In many states, a felony conviction also means losing the right to vote.

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts.

Sessions looks eager to re-open the “war on drugs” — or, more appropriately, the war on poor people who use drugs. No available metric on this decades-long war shows any significant success in limiting access to drugs in the United States or in reducing addiction to controlled substances.

What the “war on drugs” has been good at is: stigmatizing poor people afflicted with the disease of addiction; profiling black and brown folks and arresting them at rates exponentially greater than their white counterparts; and creating revenue streams for the Prison Industrial Complex.

. . . .

Sessions’ success will be key if Trump wants to make good on his law-and-order promises.

Sadly, it is working. The Justice Department is slowly transforming into an injustice department right before our eyes.

Mass incarceration, its impact on families and communities and the often racially biased ways in which its policies operate is still one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. It’s a shame that, in the era of Trump, we are unable to effectively address the challenges we face.

James Braxton Peterson is the author of three books, including “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners.”

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Read Peterson’s full article at the link.

Peterson doesn’t even get into Gonzo’s brazen attacks on justice for Latinos, immigrants, Dreamers, refugees, LGBTQ individuals, so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” lawyers, reporters, Federal Judges, critics of the Administration, forensic science, private property, or users of legalized marijuana. And, he only mentions in passing Gonzo’s disingenuous statements on Russia and his lackadaisical handling of the real threats Russia poses to our national security. Grim as Peterson’s article is, it actually substantially understates the true carnage that Gonzo is inflicting on our Constitution and our system of justice. It could turn out to be irreparable!

Senator Liz Warren was right!

PWS

11-24-17

GONZO’S WORLD: HOMOPHOBIC AG ATTACKS LGBTQ COMMUNITY WITH BOGUS LEGAL MEMO STRIPPING TRANSGENDER INDIVIDUALS OF CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/jeff-sessions-just-reversed-a-policy-that-protects

Dominic Holden reports for BuzzFeed News:

“US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys.

Sessions’ directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”

It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.

“Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”

But Sharon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now an attorney for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, countered that Sessions’ is ignoring a widespread trend in federal courts.

“It’s ironic for them to say this is law, and not policy,” McGowan told BuzzFeed News. “The memo is devoid of discussion of the way case law has been developing in this area for the last few years. It demonstrates that this memo is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were.”

“The sessions DOJ is trying to roll back the clock and pretend that the progress of the last decade hasnt’ happened,” she added. “The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”

“The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
The memo reflects the Justice Department’s aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions, who reversed an Obama-era policy that protects transgender students after a few weeks in office. Last month, Sessions filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn’t protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes.

At issue in the latest policy is how broadly the government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not address LGBT rights directly. Rather, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent agency that enforces civil rights law in the workplace, and a growing body of federal court decisions have found sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping — and that Title VII therefore bans anti-transgender discrimination as well.

Embracing that trend, former attorney general Eric Holder under President Obama announced the Justice Department would take that position as well, issuing a memo in 2014 that said, “I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

But Sessions said in his latest policy that he “withdraws the December 15, 2014, memorandum,” and adds his narrower view that the law only covers discrimination between “men and women.”

“The Department of Justice will take that position in all pending and future matters (except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential future review),” Sessions writes.

Sessions adds: “The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections.”

Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, explained the decision to issue the memo, telling BuzzFeed News, “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action. This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

McGowan, from Lambda Legal, counters, “The memo is so weak that analysis is so thin, that it will courts will recognize it for what it is — a raw political document and not sound legal analysis that should be given any weight by them.”

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Virulent homophobia has always been a key element of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Agenda.” Check out this report from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate about how when serving as Alabama’s Attorney General Gonzo attempted to use an Alabama statute that had been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge to both publicly demean LGBTQ students and stomp on their First Amendment rights. (So much for the disingenuous BS speech that Gonzo delivered on Free Speech at Georgetown Law last week.)  Here’s what happened:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech at Georgetown University Law Center in which he argued that “freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack.” As my colleague Dahlia Lithwick explained, the attorney general said this in “a room full of prescreened students who asked him prescreened questions while political demonstrators outside were penned off in ‘free speech zones.’ ” Ensconced in a safe space of his own, Sessions blasted the notion that speech can be “hurtful,” criticizing administrators and students for their “crackdown” on “speech they may have disagreed with.”

Mark Joseph Stern
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.

Sessions’ hypocrisy on speech issues is not a new development. In 1996, the then–attorney general of Alabama used the full power of his office to try to shut down an LGBTQ conference at the University of Alabama. Sessions took his battle to court, asking a federal judge to let him block the conference altogether—or, at the very least, silence students who wished to discuss LGBTQ issues. He ultimately failed, but his campaign reveals a great deal about his highly selective view of free expression. Sessions claims to support freedom for “offensive” speech, but when speech offends him, he is all too happy to play the censor.

When Sessions served as Alabama attorney general, the state still criminalized sodomy. A 1992 law, Alabama Education Code Section 16-1-28, also barred public universities from funding, recognizing, or supporting any group “that fosters or promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited by” the sodomy statute, either “directly or indirectly.” The law also forbade schools from allowing such organizations to use public facilities. Sessions’ predecessor, Jimmy Evans, had interpreted the statute to effectively outlaw the discussion or promotion of gay rights on public campuses, with that prohibition even extending to AIDS awareness campaigns.

In 1995, the University of South Alabama’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued in federal court to block Section 16-1-28. That summer, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that, under the First Amendment, public universities may not deny access to facilities or funding for student organizations on the basis of their viewpoints. This decision, the GLBA asserted, rendered Section 16-1-28 unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson agreed, holding the law to be invalid in a January 1996 ruling.

This decision was excellent news for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The GLBA had planned to host the Fifth Annual Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Conference of the Southeastern United States in February 1996. Sessions, by now attorney general, was trying his hardest to shut it down.

“University officials say they’re going to try to obey the law,” Sessions said at the time, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported in December of last year. “I don’t see how it can be done without canceling this conference. I remain hopeful that if the administration does not act, the board of trustees will.” Sessions didn’t give up even after Judge Thompson struck down the law. “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” he said.

In a last-ditch effort, Sessions returned to Thompson’s court and asked permission to ban the conference. “The State of Alabama,” he explained in court filings, “will experience irreparable harm by funding a conference and activities in violation of state law.” Failing a total ban, Sessions implored Thompson to let him censor any discussion of “safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Sessions claimed that, by talking about LGBTQ issues, conference attendees were essentially conspiring to promote criminal activity, and Alabama should not be obligated to support their criminality. Predictably, Thompson rejected Sessions’ arguments, writing that the attorney general was endeavoring to violate students’ free speech rights. Sessions then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously ruled against Alabama. The conference went on as planned.

Cathy Lopez Wessell, a lead organizer and spokeswoman for the conference, told me Sessions’ intervention “was incredibly stressful. We got threatening phone calls. We were attacked from all sides.” She continued, “We were the abomination of the month. I didn’t feel safe in the world for a while. I started to internalize some of the judgment leveled at our group. I thought, there must be something deeply wrong with you if you need to be silenced.”

Lopez Wessell explained that Sessions’ campaign against the conference registered as a broader attack on LGBTQ students.

“If we can’t talk, do we have a right to exist?” Lopez Wessell asked. “If our speech is so dangerous that it needs to be stopped, then are we dangerous? We weren’t promoting any particular activity; we just wanted to talk—about our experiences, about our existence.”

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Denying the humanity as well as the human rights of those he is biased against is a staple of the Gonzo Apocalypto agenda. Just look at his constant attempts to tie all members of the Hispanic ethnic community to crime, drugs, and gangs (even though all credible studies show that immigrants or all types have markedly lower crime rates than native-born U.S. citizens) and his false and gratuitous attempts to tie “Dreamers” to crime, terrorism, and loss of jobs!

There is no more certain way of knowing that a DOJ “legal” memo is all policy and no law than the statement: “This is a conclusion of law, not policy.“ In other words, “Don’t you dare accuse me of doing what I’m actually doing!”

Since assuming the office of Attorney General for which he is so spectacularly unqualified, here’s a list of the folks whose rights or humanity Sessions has attacked or disparaged:

Hispanics

African Americans

LGBTQ Individuals

Dreamers

Immigrants

Refugees

Asylum Seekers

Poor People

Undocumented Migrants

Women

Muslims

Civil Rights Protesters

Black Athletes

City Officials Seeking To Foster Community Law Enforcement

Prisoners

Immigration Detainees

Forensic Scientists

State Governors Who Disagree With Him

Federal Judges Who Find Trump Policies Illegal

State & Federal Judges Who Object To Migrants Being Arrested At Their Courts

Convicts

Liberal Students & College Administrators

Anti-Facists

Anti-Hate-Group Activists

Reporters

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

President Obama

Whistleblowers (a/k/a “Leakers” in “Gonzopeak”)

DOJ Career Attorneys

I’m sure I’ve left a few out.  Feel free to send me additions. The list just keeps getting longer all the time.

The only group that appears to be “A-OK” with Gonzo is “White straight Christian male Republican ultra rightists.”

Liz was right!

PWS

10-05-17

 

 

 

 

 

BATTLE BREWING AT JUSTICE? — DEA PUSHES BACK AGAINST SESSIONS’S FALSE NARRATIVES ON MARIJUANA, MS-13!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-at-odds-with-dea-on-marijuana-research-ms-13/2017/08/15/ffa12cd4-7eb9-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.77af31733d0e

Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett

report in the Washington Post:

“The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has effectively blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana to use in research, one of a number of areas in which the anti-drug agency is at odds with the Trump administration, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said.

A year ago, the DEA began accepting applications to grow more marijuana for research, and as of this month it had 25 proposals to consider. But DEA officials said they need the Justice Department’s approval to move forward. So far, the department has not been willing to provide it.

“They’re sitting on it,” said one law enforcement official familiar with the matter. “They just will not act on these things.”

As a result, said one senior DEA official, “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.’’

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said the agency “has always been in favor of enhanced research for controlled substances such as marijuana.’’

. . . .

The standoff is the latest example of the nation’s premier narcotics enforcement agency finding itself in disagreement with the new administration. While President Trump and Sessions have vowed a crackdown on drugs and violent crime, DEA officials have publicly and privately questioned some of the administration’s statements and goals.

Late last month, acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in an email to staff members that Trump had “condoned police misconduct” in remarking to officers on Long Island that they need not protect suspects’ heads when putting them into police vehicles. The acting administrator said he was writing his employees “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.” After public criticism, White House officials said the president was joking.

DEA officials say Sessions and his Justice Department have pressed the agency for action specifically on MS-13 despite warnings from Rosenberg and others at the DEA that the gang, which draws Central American teenagers for most of its recruits, is not one of the biggest players when it comes to distributing and selling narcotics.

Mexican cartels, DEA officials have warned, will use any gang to sell their drugs, and DEA leaders have directed those in their field offices to focus on the biggest threat in their particular geographic area. In many parts of the country, MS-13 simply does not pose a major criminal or drug-dealing threat compared with other groups, these officials said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could face professional consequences for candidly describing the internal disputes.

“Mexican cartels, Mexican transnational organizations are the greatest criminal threat to the United States,” Payne, the DEA spokesman, said. “There’s no other group currently positioned to challenge them. Whenever drug investigations that we do involve MS-13, we respond, but right now the No. 1 drug threat in the U.S. is the Mexican cartels.’’

. . . .”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Just another example of how Sessions’s personal and political agenda has little to do with effective law enforcement. Wonder how long these folks in DEA will be around before Sessions orders a “purge” and installs his minions?

PWS

08-16-17

 

 

7TH FINDS BIA MISAPPLIED SUPREME’S MONCRIEFFE DECISION — IL MARIHUANA CONVICTION NOT DRUG TRAFFICKING CRIME — MING WEI CHEN V. SESSIONS

http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2017/D07-20/C:17-1130:J:Wood:aut:T:fnOp:N:1997576:S:

“The Board erred by reading Moncrieffe as if that decision interpreted the CSA’s term “small amount.” Nothing in Moncrieffe supports the conclusion that the possession of a tad more than 30 grams of marijuana—the lowest amount punishable under 720 ILCS § 550/5(d)—can never be punished as a federal misdemeanor. The Board erred as a matter of law in this respect, when it found that Chen’s conviction under that provision qualifies as an aggravated felony.

We GRANT the petition for review and remand to give the Board the opportunity to decide whether to exercise its discretion to grant cancellation of removal.”

PANEL:

WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and FLAUM, Circuit Judges.

OPINION BY: Chief Judge Wood

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Will the BIA, the DOJ, and the DHS ever get the Supreme’s message on trying to expand the reach of the aggravated felony provisions to crimes that really aren’t aggravated, and sometimes aren’t even felonies?

PWS

07-21-17

 

FORMER DEPUTY AG SALLY YATES SLAMS SESSIONS’S “GONZO APOCALYPTO” PLAN TO TURN AMERICA INTO “INCARCERATION NATION!”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sally-yates-jeff-sessions_us_594eb52ee4b02734df2ac45b

According to this article from HuffPost:

“Sessions has long been a staunch conservative on crime. He once supported legislation in his home state of Alabama that would have required the death penalty for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for marijuana, which is now legalized in a number of states. Before the 2016 election, there was bipartisan agreement from groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Koch Industries, and on Capitol Hill about the need to pursue criminal justice reform. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to advance it.

Yates defended the work of Obama’s Justice Department, saying by allowing prosecutors to use their discretion on sentencing for low-level offenses, officials could dedicate resources to prosecuting the most dangerous individuals.

“Under Smart on Crime, the Justice Department took a more targeted approach, reserving the harshest of those penalties for the most violent and significant drug traffickers and encouraging prosecutors to use their discretion not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for lower-level, nonviolent offenders,” she wrote. “While there is always room to debate the most effective approach to criminal justice, that debate should be based on facts, not fear.”

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Fear and loathing are, of course, key ingredients of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Program.” Let’s see, in Tudor England they publicly hanged, mostly poor, folks for minor crimes; traitors were drawn and quartered; and the upper classes were beheaded for political, offenses, real or imagined. So, given the obvious deterrent effect, crime should have largely disappeared from the Anglo-Saxon heritage. No real historical record that even the most grisly and gruesome punishments had any real deterrent effect, not to mention that justice was often more or less arbitrary and imposed by an entrenched upper class. But, learning from history, or even knowing much about it, is hardly a Trump Administration specialty.

And, the opposite of “Smart” on Crime would be . . . ?

PWS

06-26-17

Willie To Jeffie: “You Need To Toke Up, Dude!” — Challenges AG To Take A Hit Before Targeting Weed!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/willie-nelson-jeff-sessions_us_591d4534e4b034684b0960d9

Ed Mazza reports in HuffPost:

“Country music legend Willie Nelson has some advice for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Nelson, a longtime advocate for legal pot, told Rolling Stone:

“I wonder if he’s tried both of them. I don’t think you can really make a statement like that unless you tried it all. So I’d like to suggest to Jeff to try it and then let me know later if he thinks he’s still telling the truth!”
The 84-year-old County Music Hall of Famer has his own brand of marijuana, Willie’s Reserve, for sale where it’s legal and often speaks highly of his own personal experiences with the drug.

Rolling Stone asked if there’s been a downside to his own habit.

“I haven’t run into any yet,” he said. “I guess if you go somewhere where it’s illegal, that’s a pretty good downside.”

Police have arrested the singer several times for marijuana-related offenses.”

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Don’t think this will be happening anytime soon!

PWS

05-19-17