Sessions was confirmed as attorney general late last night despite a long record of attacking civil rights. He was sworn in on Thursday by Mike Pence, and declared, “We have a crime problem. I wish the rise that we are seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip.” Sessions also warned that the rise in crime is a “dangerous permanent trend” and held his hand very high in the air.
Although the murder rate did jump in 2016—and violent crime rose four percent—what Sessions is claiming is simply not true in any meaningful sense.
Trump has routinely made the argument that only he can stop America’s descent into savagery. He said only two days ago that the murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years. (It very much is not.) At Sessions’s swearing-in, Trump also signed three executive orders. Although the orders have not yet been released, he said one would “break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth.” The others will reportedly target gangs and violence against law enforcement officers. For Trump, the argument is central to his pitch as a strongman—the only person who can fight American economic and moral decline, a less murderous Duterte. For Sessions, the fictional crime rate will be used to justify a host of authoritarian policies aimed at squashing dissent and voting rights.