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Trump’s Super Bowl Ad Doesn’t Tell the Entire Story About His ‘Criminal Justice Reform’


Breaking news, guys: a Super Bowl ad from President Donald Trump sparked controversy. Yeah, we know: What a big surprise. Congrats if you had that on your bingo card.

The commercial hypes his record on criminal justice reform, but strangely enough, falls short of naming his comprehensive legislative victory on the matter. Some online also brought up his fraught history with crime and punishment.

“Politicians talk about criminal justice reform,” stated the ad. “President Trump got it done. Thousands of families are being reunited.”

They only brought up a case that had nothing to do with “criminal justice form” in any meaningful sense of the word, however. He got Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender, out of a life sentence at the behest of reality TV star Kim Kardashian. To date, Johnson is one of 24 people to get clemency during the Trump administration.Was it “criminal justice reform”? No, it was a use of the regular ol’ pardon power. She is out of prison because her sentence was commuted, not as a result of changes to the criminal justice system.

Let’s not overstate the issue, however. He absolutely does have a comprehensive institutional victory under his belt when it comes to criminal justice reform. The ad simply didn’t didn’t spell it out. It’s called the First Sep Act. Trump signed it into law in December 2018, months after Johnson’s sentence was commuted. It was a rare bipartisan victory for an administration characterized by controversy. Among other things, the law increased the amount of good time credit for many kinds of federal inmates, prohibited the use of restraints on pregnant women, and eased criminal punishments on certain kinds of drug offenders.

The reform has indeed been credited with releasing thousands of inmates. But things remain complicated, as with anything related to federal bureaucracy. Prosecutors in Trump’s Department of Justice still worked in arguing to keep incarcerating a number of inmates who’d benefit from the statute.

Historically, the president hasn’t emphasized merciful treatment of inmates, and those accused of crimes. Quite the opposite. As a private citzien, he infamously called for the Central Park Five to get the death penalty, and as president, he encouraged cops to rough up “thugs.” He reportedly wasn’t even an initial driving force behind the First Step Act. Son-in-law Jared Kushner brought up criminal justice reform so much that Trump got annoyed with him, according to “current and former administration officials” cited by The Washington Post.

[Screengrab via Fox News]

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