President Donald Trump is dragging his feet on a plan to endorse prison and sentencing reforms ahead of the midterm elections, a source with direct knowledge on the matter told Axios.
According to the source, Trump decided during a White House meeting Thursday afternoon that the compromise package pushed by Jared Kushner, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and other supporters was just too politically difficult to approve before the elections.
“Without the president backing the bill, which might’ve reduced some mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes and sent around 4,000 prisoners home, it now has zero chance of getting a vote before the mid-terms,” the Axios report read. “Senate leadership was already reluctant to bring it up for a vote.”
In August, the president met with senators and aides from both parties, expressing glee at the idea of a compromise that would include sentencing reforms pushed by Grassley in the prison reform bill approved by the House earlier this year. However, the package received harsh criticism from law-and-order hardliners Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’ve been staunchly opposed to it.
“I don’t care about the politics; if it’s the right thing to do then we should do it,” Trump reportedly told a group of Senators when they briefed him on the plan, according to the source.
Naturally, the president’s about-face on the matter sparked praise from the Justice Department last week.
“We are pleased the president agreed that we shouldn’t support criminal justice reform that would reduce sentences, put drug traffickers back on our streets, and undermine our law enforcement officers who are working night and day to reduce violent crime and drug trafficking in the middle of an opioid crisis,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
The crumbling of the bill now signals a win for its biggest opponents. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Cotton dubbed the compromise package ” a jailbreak that’d endanger communities and undercut President Trump’s campaign promise to restore law and order.” Meanwhile, Sessions has consistently opposed criminal justice reform efforts and has even been accused of quietly waging a second war on drugs to continue filling prisons.
The midterm elections will take place nationwide on Nov. 6, 2018.