President Trump Signals Support for Criminal Justice Reform
President Trump said he would overrule Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he tries to stop a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in the Senate, a favorite project of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
“If he doesn’t [agree], then he gets overruled by me because I make the decision, He doesn’t.”
In the past, Trump has been more hesitant on the topic, particularly regarding federal sentencing guidelines. Largely thanks to tough-on-crime Republicans like Sessions and Sen. Tom Cotton. His latest remarks are a victory for Kushner, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senator Dick Durbin, and other members of Congress who have worked to get the reform bill through the House to find a compromise in the Senate.
Trump met with Kanye West to discuss prison reform this week. He has previously met with Kim Kardashian, West's wife, to discuss clemency and prison reform efforts and commuted Alice Johnson's sentence after Kardashian's advocacy.
This topic has been a dividing line between conservative groups. While some like Mark Holden, chairman of the Koch-funded Freedom Partners, hailed the commutation of Johnson's life sentence as a sign Trump "understands that our country has an over-incarceration problem caused mainly by antiquated 'tough on crime' policies of the failed War on Drugs from the 1970s to the present." Others have gone so far as to lump drug dealers and jihadists together "The current criminal justice reform legislation is a formula for getting more unreformed criminals – including drug dealers and jihadists – back on the streets, threatening public safety and even the national security,” Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney said. “We mustn’t go there.”
Trump does not plan to openly push for the bill until after the midterms due to opposition from prison reform hardliners like Senator Tom Cotton and other criminal justice policy lobbyists. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will bring the bill to the floor sometime after the midterms if it has more than 60 votes to avoid political disaster during the midterms.
The bill would likely lower some mandatory minimum sentences, incentivize prison rehabilitation programs, provide sanitary products to women and send around 4,000 prisoners home. Trump's stand on this is likely to make him more popular with the Libertarian crowd and a significant portion of the Conservative voter base but might anger some of the establishment Republicans in office currently.
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