Aug 22, 2018

Trump to meet with Sessions, Kushner to discuss sentencing reform

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Brooke Rollins on Thursday to discuss the prison and sentencing reform package being negotiated between the White House and members from both parties, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting tell Axios.

The big picture: Trump privately told senators and aides he liked the sound of a compromise that would add sentencing reforms pushed by Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to the prison reform bill the House passed earlier this year. "I don't care about the politics; if it's the right thing to do than we should do it," Trump told a group of Senators when they briefed him on the plan earlier this month, according to a source familiar with the situation.

But law-and-order hardliner Sen. Tom Cotton has lambasted the Grassley plan; Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quietly working against it; and Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Republican leadership, told reporters on Wednesday that there wouldn't be a vote before midterms.

What to watch: Whether Trump publicly endorses the compromise package once it's finalized. If Republicans remain divided over the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't bring it to the floor with ongoing judicial nominations and the upcoming spending bill. A Trump endorsement is powerful and could be enough to win over uncertain Republicans and unite the party around the bill.

The opposition: Cotton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week calling the compromise plan "a jailbreak that would endanger communities and undercut President Trump's campaign promise to restore law and order."

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also consistently opposed sentencing reform efforts. He wrote a letter to Grassley early this year tearing apart the Senator's criminal justice reform bill.
  • Yes, but: Trump loathes Sessions and won't care what he has to say. And while Cotton's office told Axios that he has spoken with other members who support his view, the other usual outspoken opponents of sentencing reform such as Sen. David Perdue have been quiet thus far.
  • Not all Democrats are convinced either. 2020 hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have expressed some concern that the bill still doesn't go far enough to address harsh penalties for low-level offenses.
  • Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden, who works closely with the White House and Congress, told Axios, "Senator Cotton's claims are inaccurate. The proposed reforms will make the system more just and increase public safety. For years, Cotton and others have claimed that long sentences are what keeps communities safe, even for nonviolent offenders. There is no real data that supports that claim." 
  • Koch Industries groups as well as other conservative groups have sent a letter to Trump advocating for the bill.

In the White House, Jared Kushner, assistant to president Brooke Rollins and special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Ja'Ron Smith have been working with Sens. Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, Tim Scott, members of the Judiciary Committee, law enforcement and conservative movement leaders to reach a compromise and get legislation passed.

Go deeper: Trump gives criminal justice reform a chance in the Senate

Go deeper

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.