Trump questions lawmakers’ efforts to curb asset seizures by police

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By Emily Stephenson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump said on
Tuesday there was “no reason” to curb law enforcement agencies
that seize cash, vehicles and other assets of people suspected
of crimes, a practice that some lawmakers and activists have
criticized for denying legal rights.

The issue of civil asset forfeiture, created to disrupt the
activities of organized crime groups, arose when sheriffs from
around the United States told Trump at a White House meeting
that they were under pressure to ease the practice.

“I’d like to look into that,” Trump said. “There’s no reason
for that.”

In 2016, a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers
introduced a bill, which did not become law, that would have
required the government to do more to show that seized property
was connected to a crime. Critics have said suspects have few
avenues to challenge the seizures and that forfeiture laws were
sometimes abused. Police in some cases seize property from
people who are never charged or convicted.

Trump, a Republican, asked acting U.S. Attorney General Dana
Boente, who was at the gathering, whether executive orders or
legislation were needed to support forfeiture. Boente said that
was unnecessary but law enforcement agencies needed

Trump voiced disagreement with lawmakers who want to change
asset forfeiture laws, and some of the sheriffs laughed when
Trump suggested he might want to “destroy” the career of one
Texas legislator.

He said members of the U.S. Congress would “get beat up
really badly by the voters” if they interfered with law
enforcement’s activities.

Later, Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County, Texas,
told Trump of his response to a state lawmaker who had
introduced legislation requiring suspects first be convicted
before assets could be seized.

“I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in
Mexico if he could get that legislation passed,” Eavenson said.

“Who was the state senator?” Trump asked.

“You want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” the
president deadpanned, to laughter.

Eavenson did not identify the lawmaker, but a Republican
state senator has introduced similar legislation in Texas. The
Texas Observer magazine reported that the bill had support from
Republicans and Democrats.

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