The Dept. of Justice has revamped a key and critical manual for federal prosecutors, remaking it to reflect the vision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ priorities and goals.
“In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled ‘Need for Free Press and Public Trial.’ References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down,” Buzzfeed reports.
“The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media.”
Buzzfeed notes that the manual, technically titled the United States Attorneys Manual, is actually used by federal prosecutors and throughout the Justice Dept.
Part of the section of freedom of the press that was deleted said that “careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused.”
In short, Sessions is opting to change the DOJ’s First Amendment focus to preserving and expanding “religious liberty,” and gutting freedom of the press protections.
The racial gerrymandering section, in part, had read:
“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find…that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”
Under Attorney General Eric Holder the manual was changed to advocate for charging decisions that “fairly reflect the defendant’s criminal conduct.”
It now reflects Attorney General Sessions’ memo that orders federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”