The terrifying prospect of an Attorney General Giuliani
Radley Balko has an interesting column, but basically we are helpless: the Executive branch is going to come under Trump’s control and the GOP House and GOP Senate will support him. Still, we live here, so the decisions they make will impact us:
Among the names being tossed around for Donald Trump’s attorney general is Rudy Giuliani, a politician that the journalist Jimmy Breslin once called “a small man in search of a balcony.” Of course, Giuliani’s name isn’t a surprise. The former New York mayor — who once said that “freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do” — has been a Trump adviser and surrogate for months. He’s actively lobbying for the Justice Department post, but he has also been mentioned as a possibility to head up the Department of Homeland Security.
It seems likely that Trump’s election is the end of criminal-justice reform at the federal level. Given his campaign rhetoric, and Trump’s endorsement by nearly every law enforcement agency in the country, I doubt we’ll see any more damning reports on police abuse from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. But Giuliani at Justice is an especially troubling proposition. This is a man whose career has been marked by prosecutorial excesses, knee-jerk defenses of abusive cops and an affinity for using the power of his political offices to get vengeance on his enemies.
Let’s look first at his tenure as the mayor of New York. Giuliani has always been a stalwart defender of abusive cops. In 2000, two undercover New York Police Department detectives shot and killed 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond. The detectives asked Dorismond if he knew where they could find some pot. Dorismond, no pot dealer, was offended at the question, and a scuffle broke out. One of the officers pulled a gun. The detectives claim Dorismond tried to grab it. After the incident, Giuliani released Dorismond’s juvenile record, which by law was supposed to remain sealed. Citing Dorismond’s record as a minor, Giuliani said the dead man was “no altar boy.” (Actually, Dorismond had been an altar boy.) The city eventually paid $2.25 million to Dorismond’s family. The detective was cleared. Giuliani defended the release of Dorismond’s juvenile records by claiming the man had no right to privacy after death. Giuliani also defended the officers who shot Amadou Diallo 19 times after he pulled a wallet out of his jacket to show them his ID.
Giuliani of course was also the mayoral architect of “Stop & Frisk,” and still widely touts its success, despite the fact that murders in New York have continued to decline since the NYPD largely stopped the practice. Giuliani also stepped up street-level enforcement of the drug laws, often with the use of SWAT tactics and no-knock raids. In 1990s New York, raid teams kicked down doors left and right, often based on little more than tips from shady informants. Despite increasing complaints and media reports of brutality, excessive force, and raids on innocent people and families throughout the decade, the Giuliani administration did nothing. By the time Alberta Spruill — an innocent, 57-year-old woman — was killed in a mistaken raid in 2003, the NYPD was conducting 450 such raids per month. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said after Spruill’s death that about 10 percent were on the wrong address. That 45 or so New York residences were wrongly raided each month was apparently an acceptable figure. But Kelly also conceded that the number could be higher, because the department didn’t really keep track of how often they mistakenly waged volatile terrifying raids on innocent people. (Today, the NYPD is one of the more restrained big-city police departments when it comes to such tactics, although there are still some problems.)
Under President Obama, at least some parts of the Justice Department tried to encourage less militaristic, less reactionary, more community-oriented policing. That will likely end no matter whom Trump puts at DOJ. But it would certainly end under Giuliani.
Giuliani the mayor was also hostile to the First Amendment. He waged war on a Brooklyn art museum because it displayed a painting he found offensive. He later tried to assemble a “decency task force” to seek out art at public museums for possible censorship. Giuliani often boasts of his crackdowns on pornography. Earlier this year, Trump vowed to do the same. (He has also added famous anti-porn crusader Ed Meese to his transition team.) Should he head up the Justice Department, we can probably expect Giuliani to invest considerable resources toward eradicating Internet pornography. That will never happen, of course. But they could certainly make examples of a lot of people. Giuliani also used zoning laws and quality-of-life ordinances to crack down on protests, street vendors and advertisements he found distasteful (or, in many cases, were critical of him). He took New York magazine to court (and lost) over a bus ad the magazine took out because it mentioned his name.
In giving Giuliani a lifetime “muzzle award” for his hostility to free speech, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression wrote, . . .
And do click the link and keep reading. There’s a lot more, and it will be important.