The Justice Department (DOJ) announced they have added 311 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys “to assist in priority areas” such as the opioid criss, immigration and violent crimes. The decision, which is the largest increase in AUSAs in decades, comes on the 500th day of the Trump Administration.
“Under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis—and today we are sending in reinforcements,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “We have a saying in my office that a new federal prosecutor is ‘the coin of the realm.'”
President Donald Trump campaigned on the opioid crisis and, as commander-in-chief, has made the scourge of opioid abuse a central focus of his administration.
In April 2017, the Trump Administration announced it would provide grants to all 50 states to combat opioid addiction. The funding was the first of two rounds to be allocated under the 21st Century Cures Act.
In August 2017, President Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis said that executive action would make the opioid crisis a top priority and allow the Cabinet to take “bold steps” against drug abuse.
In March 2018, the White House unveiled the Initiative to Stop Opioids Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand. The three-pronged strategy targets the factors the Commission and others identified as fueling the opioid crisis.
Only one day later, Attorney General Sessions issued a guidance memo to U.S. Attorneys “strongly” encouraging them to pursue the death penalty in drug-related prosecutions. In the guidance memo, Mr. Sessions told U.S. Attorneys they should pursue capital punishment when appropriate.
He listed specific statutes that include certain racketeering activities (18 U.S.C. § 1959); the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(j)); murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise (21 U.S.C. § 848(e)); and dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. § 3591(b)(1)).
The Trump Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis have bled unavoidably into healthcare fraud.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and DOJ released a joint report in April 2018 showing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Takedown event was the single largest healthcare fraud bust in history.
The (FY) 2017 Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program report shows for every dollar the federal government spent on healthcare-related fraud and abuse in the last three years, they recovered $4. In FY 2017, the Trump Administration’s efforts recovered $2.6 billion in taxpayer dollars from individuals and entities.
Meanwhile, the new AUSA’s will be allocated as follows: 190 violent crime prosecutors, 86 civil enforcement prosecutors, and 35 additional immigration prosecutors.
The Justice Department said many of the civil enforcement AUSA’s will support the newly created Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, which targets the opioid crisis at every level of distribution.
“When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is if we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed. I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission, and as a former federal prosecutor myself, my expectations could not be higher,” Mr. Sessions added. “These exceptional and talented prosecutors are key leaders in our crime fighting partnership.”