We have a massive cocaine problem killing off African-Americans. We have an unprecedented drug trafficking problem from transnational cartels. We have a terror financing problem, with terrorists working with the cartels in the drug trade. And we have a debilitating liberal judge problem.
The jailbreak bill, with its Orwellian name of First Step Act, dramatically cuts sentencing and prison time for the quintessential type of drug traffickers for whom Trump said he wanted to apply the death penalty. Yet the legislation he is now supporting, thanks to Jared Kushner and his liberal cosmopolitan agenda, allows them to escape the mandatory minimum sentencing altogether and obtain early release.
In March, President Trump delivered a seminal speech on drug trafficking, its connection to illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, and transnational cartels, and the need to get tougher, not weaker, on deterrent and punishment. After thanking law enforcement for catching drug traffickers in New Hampshire, Trump declared that “we have to get tough on those people, because we can have all the Blue Ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time.”
What did he mean by getting tough? “And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
This isn’t about nice anymore. This isn’t about committees. This isn’t about let’s get everybody and have dinners, and let’s have everybody go to a Blue Ribbon committee and everybody gets a medal for, frankly, talking and doing nothing. This is about winning a very, very tough problem. And if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it’s not going to happen, folks. It’s not going to happen. And I want to win this battle.
We would be better off with Blue Ribbon panels today than with Trump supporting a bill to get weaker on drug trafficking. There were a lot of White House “dinners” over this wretched piece of legislation, too, but not a single “tougher” provision, and certainly not the death penalty.
We are being lied to that this bill just deals with some schlepper from the Bronx who needed a few extra bucks to support his family and sold some dime bags of marijuana and is now sitting in federal prison for the rest of his life. Not only is this an absolute fiction, this bill specifically recognizes the worst drug cartel associates not for the death penalty, as Trump suggested, but for reduced sentencing and early release combined.
Click on the text of the bill and turn to page 66. On that page you will find section 402 on expanding the “safety valve.” The safety valve has already allowed well over 100,000 drug traffickers to avoid the mandatory minimums, and this bill dramatically expands it, essentially abolishing the mandatories and giving discretion to the wacko open-borders, weak-on-crime judges to give these people the very slap on the wrist Trump has bemoaned for so long. Take a look at this provision in the safety valve:
Do you know what those highlighted subsections are? These are the pilots and crews of maritime drug boats, including “narco-subs,” who will now be able to avoid the mandatory minimums. These are the people who drive the submarines or other vessels for the Columbian cartels, such as FARC, that are hooked in with Hezbollah to peddle tons of cocaine into this country, killing thousands of people at record levels, particularly African-Americans. Yes, these cartels are so wealthy that they have a fleet of submarines.
Why would the crafters of this bill explicitly single out narco-subs in a carve-out provision to avoid the mandatory sentencing? This is yet another provision that demonstrates this bill is coming from a depraved ideology driven by Soros and the Kochs to let out all of the drug traffickers, including cartel members and gang-bangers with a substantial criminal record. The schlepper from the Bronx doesn’t wind up driving submarines for these people.
Let’s remember what Trump said in New Hampshire before this issue became a top priority for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump:
You know, it’s an amazing thing. Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people during their lifetime — thousands of people — and destroy many more lives than that. But they will kill thousands of people during their lifetime, and they’ll get caught and they’ll get 30 days in jail. Or they’ll go away for a year, or they’ll be fined. And yet, if you kill one person, you get the death penalty or you go to jail for life.
These are the very people who will now get reduced sentencing. Now that those driving subs for cartels can escape the mandatories, judges theoretically have the power to sentence them to a laughable 30 days! Unlike previous versions of this bill, there is no limit on how far the judge can reduce sentencing. But it gets worse. Even without the safety valves, the mandatories are only triggered, under the proposed policies, if the drug trafficker had previously served one year in prison for a felony punishable of at least 10 years in prison. Now, all of the weak convictions the judges could mete out won’t be counted to render someone a repeat offender. This bill has a cascading effect of leniencies that build on each other to help repeat offenders.
And that is just the front-end reductions. These very people who drive subs for Hezbollah-linked cartels will then be able to enjoy time credits to lop off one-third of that already reduced sentence on the back end. This is concerning given that Michael Braun, former chief of operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, warned, “Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the global cocaine trade over the past decade has resulted in the formation of alliances with Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking cartels, the most sophisticated transnational organized crime syndicates law enforcement has ever faced.”
This bill will undermine the most potent investigative tool law enforcement has to take down not just the cartels but also the narco-terrorists involved. Derek Maltz, a veteran DEA agent and former head of the agency’s special operations division, said this is particularly concerning as we lose more human resources to infiltrate these organizations. “In the middle of the worst drug crisis in history, the politicians should not be taking away more tools from law enforcement to fight the sophisticated cartels,” said the veteran DEA agent in an interview with CR. “By reducing the sentences of conspirators working in major organizations, the defendants will lose their incentive to cooperate with law enforcement since they will no longer fear the extended jail time! This will crush the agency’s ability to better understand the operations of the cartels and ultimately hurt their ability to disrupt their activities. … This will be a recipe for a disaster, and the cartels will expand!”
The human component and the sentencing leverage are particularly important with narco-subs where the vessels are equipped with drainage systems to destroy all the evidence within minutes.
Leveraging stiff prison sentencing against cartel members is important in terms of breaking up not just the drug cartels, but also Hezbollah terrorist cells that are increasingly relying on the drug trade to serve terrorism. More than any category of drugs, cocaine is inextricably tied up in terror finance, and the narco-subs at our maritime borders are the easiest ones to catch. Not all narco-subs are hooked into terrorism, but many of them are, more than the land-based Mexican cartel smuggling in the southwest. Watch this brand-new documentary on Hezbollah and the cocaine trade recently produced by the Abba Eban Institute in Israel, and you will see how going soft on maritime narcotics traffickers will weaken our ability to bust up these networks.
Nobody articulated this point better than Sen. Chuck Grassley in a floor speech on July 14, 2014, just one year before he mysteriously flipped on the issue. He “strongly” opposed this very bill, not only because “this bill would put at risk our hard-won national drop in crime,” but because it “puts our national security at increased risk.” He noted even then that “there is a growing nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, a nexus that increasingly poses a clear and present danger to our national security” that how reducing sentences would strip us of leverage.
“By cutting the mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking drugs to fund terrorism, the Smarter Sentencing Act weakens an important tool that can be used to gain the cooperation of narcoterrorists facing prosecution.” This cooperation leads to more arrests, more drug seizures, more terrorists off the streets, and more intelligence that could help prevent attacks.
Remember, Grassley was speaking about the original version of the bill that didn’t have this provision allowing narco-sub traffickers not only to get reduced sentencing, but also to escape the mandatories altogether, plus obtain early release.
Have you ever seen such a remarkable flip in all of politics?
Trump should return to his previous promise to “appoint the best prosecutors and judges in the country, pursue strong enforcement of federal laws, and … break up the gangs, the cartels and criminal syndicates terrorizing our neighborhoods.” As he so presciently declared, “There is no compassion in allowing drug dealers, gang members, and felons to prey on innocent people.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.