Aug 3, 2018

Trump gives criminal justice reform a chance in the Senate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump privately expressed openness Thursday to reforms of federal sentencing guidelines in order to help a prison reform bill move through the Senate, The Hill first reported.

Why it matters: The earlier momentum behind prison reform stopped abruptly in the Senate, with Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Democrats unwilling to support a bill that didn't address harsh sentencing laws. But this compromise could get most players on board — at the same time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking for bipartisan wins.

What's new: Four pieces of Grassley's bill would be added to the prison reform bill that passed the House, according to sources closely involved, that would:

  1. Reduce the mandatory penalty from life to 25 years for a third conviction of certain drug offenses, and from 25-15 years for a second conviction.
  2. Prohibit the doubling up of mandatory sentences for certain gun and drug offenses.
  3. Give judges more discretion in giving less than the mandatory minimum for certain low-level crimes.
  4. Make the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, which changed sentencing guidelines to treat offenses involving crack and powder cocaine equally.

Details: The existing bill incentivizes rehabilitation programs, would send around 4,000 prisoners home and provides incarcerated women sanitary products.

The support: A senior White House official told the Hill that Trump is "positively inclined" toward the compromise proposal. And an official told Axios that Trump will "always be very tough on crime," but also "believes in second chances."

  • Sens. Grassley, Mike Lee and John Cornyn ,as well as several advocates, have told Axios they are encouraged by the latest developments. “We thank President Trump for his leadership to ensure that meaningful criminal justice reform happens this year," said Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden.
I think it’s clear now that the president is engaged on this issue and is supportive of a reasonable compromise. With his leadership I think we can get a bipartisan deal done.
— Sen. Grassley to Axios

Advocacy groups who had previously withheld support for the bill, such as the Brennan Center, have been welcoming toward the possibility of compromise. Even The Leadership Conference sees the developments as a possible opportunity for getting sentencing reform done.

What to watch: Now that Grassley and Democrats are likely to get on board, all eyes are on Republicans (hardliners like Sen. Tom Cotton aside) to see if they maintain their support even with sentencing.

  • Cut50 co-founder Jessica Jackson, who's been active on the issue, told Axios they're continuing to work hard "to make sure that both parties are staying healthy on this issue and saying yes where they agree."

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy