Donald Trump has been president for just two weeks, but experts are already seeing trends in how his administration will enforce criminal laws. But where will money and priorities be placed in the coming months?
Reginald J. Brown
“It’s a jump ball at this point where policy is going to lead on a lot of topics,” said Reginald J. Brown, a partner with WilmerHale in Washington, D.C.
“Nobody has any inside information, but I think we can make some educated statements,” added Jon A. Sale, co-chair of the white-collar practice group at Broad and Cassel in Miami.
Brown and Sale were part of a five-member panel during the ABA Midyear Meeting Feb.3 that discussed the Trump administration’s criminal enforcement priorities. The panelists agreed on two points: Fighting street crime could get more money and personnel, and corporations may not get a free ride.
On Jan. 24, President Trump tweeted that if Chicago doesn’t fix its problem with violent crime, “I will send in the Feds!” One panelist – Jane Serene Raskin, a partner with Raskin & Raskin in Coral Gables, Fla., said that’s not such a crazy idea. She noted that President Bill Clinton added 80,000 to 90,000 police officers across the country, at a cost of $10 billion.
“So there are ways of spending money to directly help local communities, if that’s what you want to do,” Raskin said.
Sale noted that TV ads touting Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general include the tag line “He’ll put public safety first.” Sale said, “With this new attorney general, I think there will be a feeling that there’s more support for law enforcement – whether that’s fair or not to the prior administration.”
RELATED VIDEO: Experts forecast Trump administration enforcement policies
The panelists also debated whether the Trump administration will pursue criminal charges against companies and corporate officers that break the law. “My gut tells me corporations aren’t going to get a break,” Raskin said.
Jane Serene Raskin
Sale agreed. He said he has seen media reports that the Trump administration may be “business friendly” when it comes to criminal enforcement. “I don’t really know what that means when it comes to prosecutors,” Sale said. Career prosecutors “are going to continue their jobs. They are going to continue enforcing the statutes that they are charged to enforce.”
Immigration prosecutions will also be a priority, said moderator Marcos Daniel Jimenez, a former U.S. attorney who is now with McDermott Will & Emery in Miami. In part, he said, this is a matter of practicality as much as policy.
Immigration cases “are relatively easy to make,” Jimenez said. “Believe it or not, the Department of Justice, just like the courts and other federal agencies, lives and dies on statistics. You want to have your numbers up… So that’s an easy area to drive up your convictions. Does it make us safer? That’s a subject of great debate.”
The panel also discussed how Trump will handle cybersecurity threats. Mark C. Ray, a cybersecurity expert, formerly with the FBI and now with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta, said the threat is “large and increasing,” particularly for the nation’s infrastructure, which he called “extremely vulnerable.”
Ray said the government and private sector should be sharing more information to protect each other. “The internet of things is like the wild west right now… Hopefully, classified information will not be so closely held,” he said.
An audience member asked whether the Justice Department will maintain its traditional autonomy under Trump. Panelists weren’t sure. “The president traditionally sets the tone and the priorities, and then traditionally stays really, really far away from the Justice Department,” Brown said. “But this is the Trump administration, so stay tuned.”
“Enforcement Priorities in the Trump Administration” was sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section.