Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit Cleveland on Wednesday

August 21, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit Cleveland on Wednesday

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in Cleveland Wednesday to discuss the nation’s opioid crisis, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Sessions, appointed by President Donald Trump last year, is expected to talk about law enforcement’s role in combatting the nation’s drug epidemic. He will hold a news conference at 12:20 p.m.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman will be at the attorney general’s side, as well as Justice Department officials Jesse Panuccio, Chad Readler and Brian Benczkowski. Trump nominated Readler in June to serve on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The Justice Department announced earlier Tuesday that “senior department officials” would be in Cleveland to talk about the opioid epidemic. It did not specify the officials at the time. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had planned to host Sessions on Wednesday.

His appearance is expected be his first one following a Virginia jury’s decision to convict Paul Manafort, former chairman for Trump’s campaign, in a financial fraud trial. The jury found Manafort guilty of eight charges on Tuesday and were deadlocked on another 10.

It will also happen one day after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges in New York, some related to his paying off women with potentially damaging information about Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions was involved in the Trump campaign.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have been hit hard by the nation’s opioid epidemic. Hundreds have died from overdoses each year for the past few years, with a record-high 727 deaths in 2017. The majority involved fentanyl, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Sessions and his Justice Department have pushed the idea that increased prosecution will lead to fewer overdoses deaths. While prosecutors brought cases against drug dealers suspected of selling a dose to someone who died during the previous administration, Sessions has also told U.S. attorneys to charge and pursue “the most serious, readily provable offense” in cases involving drugs and violent crime.

His view on cases involving drugs and violent crimes is similar to law enforcement during the so-called War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s, when prosecutors sought to address the crack-cocaine epidemic and violent crime through aggressive enforcement of federal laws. Many of those prosecuted at the time were poor, black men, and experts say the War on Drugs caused the prison population in the U.S. to dramatically grow.

Trump has expressed support for taking more drastic measures to combat opioid epidemic.

It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018

While Sessions has traveled to Ohio since being sworn in as attorney general, Wednesday’s trip is Sessions’ first trip to Cleveland in his new role.

It is also believed to be the first time he has been in Cleveland since the Republican National Convention in 2016, when he was still serving as Alabama’s senator.

His activities as the Trump campaign’s foreign policy director have come under scrutiny by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is probing Russia’s influence on the November 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

Sessions and Trump campaign aides J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares served as speakers for a series of conference panel discussions at Case Western Reserve University’s Tinkham Veale University Center. USA Today reported that Gordon and campaign adviser Carter Page spoke with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, among other foreign ambassadors, during the event.

Mueller’s team has interviewed Sessions and others about interactions Sessions had with Kislyak, multiple news outlets have reported.

Sessions recused himself from overseeing Mueller’s probe.

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