Over the weekend, multiple Democratic Party presidential hopefuls announced they would boycott a criminal justice forum after one of its sponsors gave a criminal justice award to President Donald Trump. The 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center was a main sponsor and host of the forum at Benedict College in South Carolina, but the center gave Trump an award for signing the First Step Act into law.
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said they would boycott the forum over Trump’s award. Harris said, “I said I would not come because I just couldn’t believe that Donald Trump would be given an award as it relates to criminal justice reform.”
In other words, Harris could not agree with multiple progressive groups and activists, and public record, that Trump helped pass and then signed into law the First Step Act.
The First Step Act was a law passed on a bipartisan vote in Congress which curbed sentences for nonviolent offenders, which was estimated to alleviate prison overcrowding and help repatriate inmates back into society. Multiple advocacy groups supported the bill, such as Cut50, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Trump led the effort, at the behest of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and progressive CNN host Van Jones praised Trump for getting the law to the finish line.
Despite Trump’s legislative success, the Democratic Party candidates felt it appropriate to boycott the event until the event organizers agreed to withdraw the offending sponsor. The sponsor agreed to sponsor only two panels in the forum to avoid further backlash.
It is disappointing that the mainstream media focused on Harris’s comments and not the fact that Trump pushed for and signed into law one of the more significant criminal justice reform legislation in recent memory. Politico, ABC News, MSNBC and NBC News did not explain how impactful the First Step Act was, only that Trump helped get it to pass through Congress.