Violent crime rates are at a near 20-year low, but the President of the United States tasked his newly sworn-in Attorney General to get a hold of the “gang members and drug dealers terrorizing” the nation.
Former Sen. Jeff Session (R-Ala.) was sworn in during a ceremony in the Oval Office on Thursday. Afterward, President Trump signed three executive orders that he described as “designed to restore safety in America.”
One measure directs the Department of Justice to create a task force on reducing violent crime.
Another requires the department, in Trump’s words, to “break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and our destroying the blood of our youth and many other people.”
The final decree implements plans to stop violence against police officers.
“It’s a shame what’s been happening to our great, truly great law enforcement officers.” Trump said. “That’s going to stop as of today.” He then proclaimed that “a new era of justice begins.”
Trump has frequently lied about crime rates in the US in order to promote what he’s described as his “law and order” candidacy. Earlier this week, while meeting with US Sheriffs, Trump claimed, “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.”
Despite a rising number of homicides in big cites like Chicago and Washington, DC, the latest FBI data on crime rates, reveals that, nationwide, the number of murders is near its lowest point in decades.
In 2015, the latest available data, there were 15,696 homicides in US. There were more murders two decades ago, in 1996, when 19,645 people in the US were murdered—despite the fact that population was smaller at the time, by roughly 60 million people. The current murder rate is also nearly half of what it was in 1980.
Rates of Violent crime like aggravated assaults, robberies, and rapes are also down, having declined by more than half since 1991.
In Sessions, however, Trump has found someone else willing to perpetuate the myth of out of control crime in the US.
After he was sworn in, the new Attorney General declared: “We have a crime problem.”
Sessions went on to say that–based on his many years in law enforcement, a time that saw violent crime rates plummet–his best judgment is that crime in the US is on a “dangerous permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”
Sessions was confirmed by the US Senate on Wednesday in a 52-47 vote. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) was the only Democrat to support his nomination.
The vote came after a heated debate that garnered national attention, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was silenced by Republicans for violating a rarely-invoked, more-than-century old rule forbidding members from impugning each other on the Senate floor.
Warren’s remarks had derived from a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King about Jeff Sessions’ racist past, as a US Attorney in Alabama. That letter was one of the reasons why the Senate refused to confirm Sessions to a federal judgeship position that year.