USA: A president facing impeachment cannot be a champion for criminal justice reform- By Mohamed Hamaludin

– BY MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

It boggles the mind that an African American organization whose membership is 50 percent Democrats could honor President Donald Trump for criminal justice reform. But that is what the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center did last Friday when it awarded him its Bipartisan Justice Award at its Second Step Presidential Justice Forum. To make matters worse, the group chose historically black Bennet College in Charlestown, S.C., as the venue and made available only 10 tickets for students.     

Trump was honored, the center said, for signing the First Step bill into law, a positive step that cleared the way for thousands of federal prisoners to be released and set the stage for some criminal justice reform.  But, as Eugene Scott noted in the Washington Post back in June, the First Step initiative was actually started during the Obama administration but was stalled by the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

Trump spent more than $80,000 on full-page ads in New York newspapers calling for reinstatement of the death penalty and applying it to four African American and one Latino teenagers falsely charged with the 1989 brutal sexual assault of a jogger in the city’s Central Park. The suspects, who maintained they were coerced into confessing, spent years in prison but they were eventually exonerated and awarded $41 million in compensation. Up to this June, 30 years later, Trump was still insisting, the Washington Post reported, that he was right to call for their execution, saying, “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt…  Some of the prosecutors think the city should never have settled that case and we’ll leave it at that.”

There is more. Soon after Trump took office, his then Attorney General Jeff Sessions set about reversing almost all policies which his predecessor, Barack Obama, implemented. These included scaling back Justice Department investigation of the police for abuse and racism and charging drug offenders facing minor counts with the maximum force of the law. Also at a time of Black Lives Matter, Trump resumed giving surplus military equipment to law enforcement. That militarization of the police began in the 1990s and resulted in the transfer of military equipment worth $5 billion, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles, bayonets, explosives, battering rams, riot helmets and shields. The Obama administration had begun curtailing this program, resulting in 126 tracked armor vehicles, 138 grenade launchers and 1,623 bayonets being returned to the military.

Of the 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates invited to speak at the forum, California Senator Kamala Harris, one of two African Americans in the race, was most vocal in criticizing the award and quite appropriately refused to attend. “Donald Trump is a lawless president,” Harris said. “Not only does he circumvent the laws of our country and the principles of our Constitution but there is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice or in celebration of justice.”

Harris accused Trump of having a history of “decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures and racist behavior that puts people’s lives at risk.”

The college stepped in and did the right thing, dropping the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center as a forum sponsor and opening the remaining sessions to all Bennett students. Harris then changed her mind and attended.

New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, the other African American candidate, criticized the center for providing the president with “a platform unchecked for close to an hour” which allowed him “to create some illusion of support from this community when, in fact, he excluded it.”

How could the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center decide to present the award to Trump, given his dismal record on criminal justice? The organization says it was formed in March 2015 by attorney Ashley D. Bell. – whom the White House appointed in February 2018 as regional director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Southeast region. The inaugural membership of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats has grown to more than 80 and now includes, the organizations says, “mayors, city, county and state officials, prosecutors and defense attorneys, political strategists, community leaders, activists, police chiefs and other law enforcement executives.” Its leadership comprises Bell, with another attorney, Candice S. Petty, as executive director. There is a board of directors and an advisory board, with Democrat Tishaura Jones and Republican Rufus Montgomery as co-chairpersons.

With that sort of membership, how could the organization not know that an award for criminal justice reform would be inappropriate for Trump? If it wanted to honor a criminal justice champion, there are many around with impeccable credentials, notably Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Either the leadership was unaware of Trump’s, which would be highly unlikely, or they used the event at Bennett College to provide a platform for the president to make a pitch to African Americans as he campaigns for re-election while facing a Congressional impeachment inquiry into whether he has abused his power. “I have my own experience, you know that,” Trump told the forum in his one-hour speech. “You see what’s going on with the witch hunt.”

Mission accomplished.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On November 1, 2019 at 12:57 am

    Disgraceful!
    Shame !

    Kamtan

  • IAN A NASCIMENTO  On November 1, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Mohamed, you and the liberals (socialist) just can’t get over the fact that Trump is the President of the USA and the best President that we have had in many years. Trump bashing is all you do.
    WHY DON’T YOU START BASHING THE WORST president WE HAVE HAD EVER, “obama”?

    • Emanuel  On November 2, 2019 at 5:53 am

      What? Unbelievable!

      A corrupt, amoral, narcissistic, man-child occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave . Anyone who thinks this oddball misfit is the best US president needs a head examined.

      • Tata  On November 7, 2019 at 11:29 pm

        Tell that to the tax paying Americans who voted Donald Trump for president. I don’t think they were looking for as Angel or a politician, it seems they wanted someone to address the issues that have been major concerns that they believe were never addressed by previous presidents. That’s what made America great. People have the right to vote their conscience and and not be influenced by the loud noise in the room.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 2, 2019 at 5:42 am

    President Donald Trump May Have Worked A Previous Ukraine Quid Pro Quo: WaPo – Shake-Down!!

    I will cut to the chase: This guy says something off-camera … then, the reporters said would you mind saying that on camera ??? – Check it out:

    “If I were an enterprising reporter, I would spend some time on Javelin Missiles.”

    WHY??? – “…. if I were an enterprising reporter.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 2, 2019 at 6:14 am

    • Ken Persaud  On November 8, 2019 at 7:01 am

      Thanks for sharing these videos. We are seeing evidence of a corrupt president, if not the most corrupt in US history. The day of reckoning is nigh.

      What will Republican Senators do when the trial begins in the Senate in the coming weeks? The choice is clear and twofold: hold Donald Trump to account; or acquiesce. If it’s the latter, which seems likely, they will have sold their souls to the devil. Their decision will echo deep into posterity.

      One can hope that the said Republicans will do the right thing and remove this toxic man from office and restore dignity to the Office.

      Ken.

  • wally n  On November 2, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Ever notice on this site. NOTHING. about trudeau??????Only PRESIDENT TRUMP is a bad man. Me, waiting for the BARR and I G report plus the GO TO JAIL OF THEM ALL. My “TOLD YOU SO” on stand by.

    • kamtanblog  On November 3, 2019 at 1:41 am

      Charge them
      Try them
      Jail them
      Fine and confiscate all their ill gained
      assets accumulated by avoiding/evading taxes. Regulation and taxation way forward.

      Kamtan

      • kamtanblog  On November 3, 2019 at 1:46 am

        Trudeau aka Mr Handsome is an opportunist politician…liberal !
        Preaches freedom
        Practices hypocrisy

        Con merchant not unlike our Ex PM
        Tony Smiley Blair !
        Now Canada has him for another half decade…god bless/help Canada.

        My take (opinion)

        Kamtan

    • Emanuel  On November 3, 2019 at 3:56 am

      Trump is a racist mentally ill buffoon.

      Who is Trudeau? Why should this site waste its time on a no-body, little fish in a big pond?

    • Tata  On November 8, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      Good question Wally! It seems that Canadians are more fixated with American politics than what’s going on in Canada and the BIGOT they have as their Prime Minister. Why haven’t they used the same energy they’ve used against Trump to highlight the racists and offensive photos of Trudeau in Black face because this BIGOT, not once but twice, and who knows how many more of these photos are out there; hidden from public scrutiny. So, why in the world is this behavior overlooked by so many as OKAY and the focus on Trump?

      In light of the nasty political rhetoric that has permeated the airwaves today, one wonders if this will be the new bigoted normal that will replace people’s GOD-GIVEN Rights to choose their political leaders. Given the fact that Trump was elected, one has to ask the question, if the dislike of this President is personal or Is it his personal views on subjects that have created the narrative and political firestorm in political culture today?

      However, we’ve been told that politics do have “strange bedfellows”, and this subject has always been fiercely debated by political pundits from every spectrum of the world. Unfortunately, everyone will not share the same political view no matter if politics is clocked in the shape of Jesus Christ. Sadly today, this has taken a NASTY turn of event, where’s social media, Hollywood super rich and the wealthy among us, wants to choose whom ones should vote for, labeling those with a different point of view as sick or even worst.

      But if one should take a deep breath and understand the true definition of Bigotry, then isn’t this what the people of America did when they voted for Trump? Why is it that people who don’t have a BONE in the SOUP is complaining about the softness of the BONE?

      Putin has to be a very Happy man because he has created the insanity we see in America’s media and around the rest of the world.

      • Emanuel  On November 9, 2019 at 1:58 am

        Trump has made it abundantly clear that black and brown people come from s-hole countries like those in Africa, Haiti and Central America. He’d prefer people from Norway and Sweden to immigrate to America. Damn, you know what he thinks of the people of Puerto Rico, tossing them paper towels after the Island was destroyed by a hurricane. Anyone person of the above description who supports this vile man is a traitor.

      • wally n  On November 9, 2019 at 10:00 am

        Bingo. wish I said that

  • wally n  On November 3, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Good to see that Smart Guyanese brain finally looking, both sides……….before crossing the road.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 9, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    NORWAY

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 9, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    RE: ……. photos of Trudeau in Black Face ??

    The recently concluded USA State of Virginia Elections gave Ralph Northam, the sitting Democratic governor, unified control over legislation and a new lease on political life — having now weathered a blackface scandal earlier this year that nearly ended his tenure …….. by the way, Virginia is True Blue Democrat.

    The State Governor – The State House and The State Senate!

    – Time to Rejoice, Justin Trudeau!

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