Exclusive — Jeff Sessions: We Will Defeat California’s ‘Sanctuary State’ Laws

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Robert Patterson make an announcement about new tools to combat the opioid crises, at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
AP File Photo/Cliff Owen

SACRAMENTO, California — Attorney Jeff Sessions told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday morning that he expects to prevail in a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice Tuesday evening against California’s “sanctuary state” laws.

In his first interview since the DOJ filed the lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of the California statutes under the Supremacy Clause, Sessions told Breitbart News that he was optimistic about the case’s prospects.

“We believe that we cannot accept the kind of restrictions that California placed on federal law officers, and we believe that their actions exceeded the Constitution, and we will win in the courts eventually,” he said.

The state’s elected leaders — all Democrats — slammed Sessions’s lawsuit on Tuesday evening. Governor Jerry Brown, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Attorney General Xavier Becerra all took to Twitter to oppose the lawsuit. Becerra even claimed that he was determined to “uphold the law” — state “sanctuary” law, as opposed to federal immigration law.

Asked whether he thought there should be a second special counsel investigation into the alleged abuse of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) procedures by the Department of Justice with regard to surveillance of associates of President Donald Trump, Sessions said he would “consider” it, even though the Inspector General’s office was “the a normal place for such a complaint to go.”

Sessions was due to address a gathering of the California Peace Officers’ Association later Wednesday morning, at the opening event of the group’s annual “legislative day.”

The full transcript of Breitbart News’ interview with Attorney General Sessions follows:

Breitbart News: Let’s look at the lawsuit filed last night. There’s still the case for funding for sanctuary jurisdictions that’s winding its way through the courts. You’ve still got to go through the Ninth Circuit here in California. What are the prospects for this legal challenge to California’s sanctuary laws?

Sessions: Our lawyers have looked at this hard. We believe that we cannot accept the kind of restrictions that California placed on federal law officers, and we believe that their actions exceeded the Constitution, and we will win in the courts eventually. And we feel feel our position is sound, and we intend to win at the district court level. But, as you know, district courts in California have been pretty activist.

Breitbart News: The number one question people on social media wanted me to ask you was: will the Justice Department be taking action against Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who warned illegal aliens in the Bay Area of ain impending ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] enforcement action and who has said she would be prepared to go to jail to protect her city’s status as a “sanctuary”jurisdiction. I know the acting director of ICE said there was a DOJ investigation into her. Can you comment on that? What are the prospects of that, going forward?

Sessions: I believe that the mayor made a colossal error in her statement that placed the safety of our federal law officers at risk, and that increased the likelihood that hundreds of serious criminals would avoid arrest and continue to remain on our streets, posing a risk to the people of the Bay Area. And we are in communication with [Acting ICE] Director [Thomas] Homan, and we look forward to reviewing the facts as they present them to our attorneys. But I couldn’t comment beyond that.

Breitbart News: Other officials have spoken out. Last night, Jerry Brown, the governor; Senator Kamala Harris; and [California] Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said that he had sworn to uphold the law, so he was going to fight this lawsuit. DO you have a reaction to their statements about this case?

Sessions: Well, he’s [Becerra’s] upholding the law? He would not direct private business owners not to voluntarily allow ICE officers to come on their property. We think that action is a violation of the law, and he has repeatedly said he would prosecute them, for example, if they voluntarily allow an ICE officer on their business. Would he say that about an OSHA officer? Or an EPA official? Of course not. The State of California — the immigration law is federal law. And it’s the products of the federal government. As even recent court decisions have made clear, it’s not under the domain of state officials. That’s the real rub here. We cannot just stand idly by while top officials in any state directly seek to disrupt federal immigration enforcement.

Breitbart News: One of the defenses of sanctuary laws is that they preserve trust between minority communities and law enforcement. What would you say to reassure minority communities who might have a difficult relationship with law enforcement and who might be fearful of this administration?

Sessions: Well, I think they should see what’s happening? Our primary focus continues to be people who entered the United States unlawfully and who committed additional crimes; people who’ve already been ordered deported but who absconded; people who have been previously deported and who re-entered. So those are our primary focus at this point. But would-be immigrants who are considering illegal entry into the United States need to understand that if they enter and are apprehended, they are subject to be deported, as the law plainly requires.

Breitbart News: There was a recent decision in the case of Sokolow v. PLO about a group of Americans victims of Palestinian terror who are suing the Palestinian government. And they won in the district Court and they lost in the Second Circuit. And the question some of them have raised is why the Trump administration is taking the opposite side from them — why it’s fighting their attempt to claim damages from the Palestinian government. Is there any prospect of a change in that policy?

Sessions: Those present very difficult legal questions. And our team is working on it. So I will have to get back with you on the status of that case.

Breitbart News: We saw Trey Gowdy of the House Oversight Committee saying he now thinks that a second Special Counsel investigation might be necessary to look into abuse of FISA warrants, or the FISA process. DO you have any comment on that?

Sessions: Well, I’ve seen that comment, I respect Congressman Gowdy and respect the request of all members of Congress. So I will, the Department of Justice will consider that. The Inspector General’s office is working on that. It’s within their jurisdiction. And people underestimate the office. It’s an independent office, with great independence within the DOJ. It has almost 500 employees, mostly lawyers and investigators. And they’ve proven that they are able to handle these kinds of issues. It’s the a normal place for such a complaint to go. But I will consider Congressman Gowdy’s request.

Breitbart News: You’re going to address a gathering of the California Peace Officers’ Association. You’re; going to talk about the lawsuit. Is there any other message you have for the men and women in uniform?

Sessions: I’m going to tell them that we’re going to be their partners. We know that our goal is to reduce crime; to reduce overdose deaths that are occurring at unprecedented numbers; and to reduce our soaring homicide rate that’s jumped higher than it has since 1968. Those trends must be reversed. And I’m going to tell them we at DOJ know that state and local officers represent 85% of law enforcement, and helping them be more effective is one of the most important things we can do.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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