Trump Threatens to “Destroy” Opponents of Civil Forfeiture

We all know Trump loves men in uniforms, particularly those who are tasked with administering state-sanctioned violence: the military and police departments. A prominent feature of his campaign rallies was constant, unctuous praise for the police. Trump seems to regard as axiomatic that police can do no wrong. This attitude became a commonplace among his most fervent followers: I will not soon forget how attendees of the Republican National Convention insisted on going out of their way to fawn over police officers wherever they found them, sometimes to the noticeable bewilderment of the recipients of such uncalled-for, slavish devotion from ostensibly free citizens of a republic! It was behavior befitting the most servile subjects in a police state. I watched people, in other words, voluntarily surrender their constitutional birthright with self-satisfied smarm.

It appears, though, that this president of the United States expects that kind of behavior from every citizen, including elected representatives. According to Politico, President Trump held a “listening session” in the White House with county sheriffs from around the country. With reporters present, Trump invited the sheriffs to make remarks.

Rockwall County, Texas, Sheriff Harold Eavenson spoke up first to discuss asset forfeiture, a practice by which law enforcement can seize the cash and property of individuals suspected of committing a crime without a guilty verdict…“On asset forfeiture, we’ve got a state senator in Texas that was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money,” Eavenson said.

“Can you believe that?” Trump interjected.

“And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed,” the Texas sheriff continued.

“Who is the state senator?” Trump replied. “Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career.”

The president’s remark elicited laughter from those gathered in the Roosevelt Room, although the president did not join in. Eavenson did not offer the Texas state senator’s name.

Here’s the exchange caught on video:

Civil forfeiture has long been opposed, in principle, by elements of both the Right and Left as well as civil liberties-advocacy and defense groups. The ACLU describes it as an affront to our “nation’s conscience.” Civil forfeiture has also been in the crosshairs of libertarians—here’s a 2010 panel discussion hosted by the Cato Institute. But, as the ACLU’s court docket and this 2013 New Yorker investigative feature demonstrate, civil forfeiture invites abuses of power by police departments and cash-deprived state governments.

But for this president, the police always hold the trump card, even when matched against our civil liberties. Perhaps the constituents of that state senator know better than the commander-in-chief.

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is an associate editor at Washington Monthly.