Hurst used Jackson as an example of why the Department of Justice should reprioritize its goals. 

Mike Hurst, former U.S. Attorney for Mississippi’s Southern District in the Trump Administration, testified today before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing titled “Protecting Our Democracy’s Frontline Workers.”

Hurst also previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and District Election Officer for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The Senate hearing, chaired by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, alongside ranking Republican member Senator Chuck Grassley, was related to threats of violence against election workers and generally, a wave of violence sweeping across the country.

“Our hearing today is on threats against election workers. Threats of violence are never acceptable,” Senator Grassley opened the hearing by saying, adding, “Violence is a major problem in America today, with rates of violent crime skyrocketing across the country. Not since the 1990s have we seen these levels of murder, assault, carjacking, robbery, attacks on police, and other violent crimes. The start of this violent crime wave began in 2020 as police nationwide were pulled off the streets. A study from the Council on Criminal Justice showed that homicides in major American cities in 2021 were 44 percent more than 2019.”

Hurst, now a partner with Phelps Dunbar LLP in the Mississippi capital city of Jackson, provided his perspective on the issues as a former Chief Federal Law Enforcement Officer, a former line federal prosecutor, and now as a private practitioner.

“In the approximately seven years in serving as the District Election Officer for the Southern District of Mississippi, at no time did I ever receive evidence of a threat made against any election officials or others connected with the election process,” Hurst’s testimony stated.

Hurst noted that in July 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a task force to “address the rise in threats against election workers, administrators, officials and others associated with the electoral process.”  He told the Committee that in that year, DOJ has only produced 5 cases in over 1,000 reported contacts reviewed.

He said it has to be asked why this issue is such a top priority for this Department of Justice, considering that over the past two years, 2020 and 2021, we have seen more than 6,000 additional people murdered in the United States, compared to 2019 figures.

Hurst went on to say that while threats should be thoroughly investigated and if found to be credible, vigorously prosecuted, he questioned whether DOJ should be expending its finite resources on threats to election officials when there has been such a rapid and significant rise in violent crime and homicides throughout our country.

The former U.S. Attorney spotlighted the problem of violent crime in the nation by using Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city, as an example.  He said that while there was a 7% reduction in crime in Jackson through previous DOJ-backed efforts just a few years ago, in 2021, Jackson became the murder capital of America.

“Jackson has recently experienced a resurgence in violent crime, becoming the murder capital of America in 2021, when it had 155 homicides, the highest murder rate per capita in the nation, more than three times higher than Chicago’s, which had the most murders overall in 2021,” Hurst told Senators.

Hurst told the Judiciary Committee that in order to truly combat this rising violent crime and murders, DOJ should be engaged and willing to make combatting crime a priority, even to the extent of moving resources to save lives using strategies that have been demonstrated and proved in the past.

Hurst highlighted “Project Safe Neighborhoods, “”Project EJECT” and “Operation Legend” as examples of the DOJ putting its resources into “surges” of federal law enforcement into the most desperate cities and areas which are being overrun by violent crime.

“Let me conclude by saying that the most important role of government is to protect its citizens, and DOJ can once again lead in this arena,” Hurst said.  “However, the Department must quickly reprioritize its goals, redirect its resources to proven programs that reduce violent crime and save lives, and act expeditiously in order to prevent that next person from becoming a victim of violent crime.”

Hurst added that by working with local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as citizens and other stakeholders, DOJ can once again reduce violent crime and make a real, positive difference in people’s lives and our communities.

You can watch the full Senate Judiciary Hearing here.