William Barr, President Trump’s law-and-order nominee for U.S. attorney general, was closer to landing the nation’s top law enforcement post days after the president falsely touted his criminal justice reform credentials.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Barr’s nomination, which was expected to pass along party lines. Since the GOP controls the Senate, Barr will probably sail through a full Senate confirmation vote that’s scheduled for next week, CBS News reported.
Barr, who served in the same position under the late former President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, has an unabashed history of openly embracing policies that overtly discriminate against people of color, including and especially Black people. The 68-year-old’s deeply troubling personal and legal opinions about the benefits of locking up more and more Black people have been well-documented.
This comes against the backdrop of Trump boasting to the nation during his State of The Union address on Tuesday that he oversaw enactment of the bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation called the First Step Act. Congress passed the legislation that aims to reduce the incarceration rate and Trump signed it in December.
He invited Matthew Charles, a Black man who was the first prisoner released under the act, to the State of the Union speech. Trump also invited Alice Johnson to the event. After serving more than 20 years in prison for a first-time, non-violent drug offense, Trump granted her clemency in June 2018, following a meeting he had with Kim Kardashian.
While criminal justice reform advocates applauded the passage of the measure, they demand real reform that goes much further. Black people continue to be victims of racial bias in the criminal justice system.
An NBC News fact check of Trump’s speech found that the president took credit for legislation that had bipartisan approval long before he became president. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Illinois’ Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin introduced the bill in 2015, and it had President Barack Obama’s support. However, Republican leaders did not want to vote on it during the 2016 election.
Trump’s previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, opposed reform. It took lobbying from the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner for Trump to finally go along with the bill.
Furthermore, advocates were right when they complained that the First Step Act doesn’t go far enough. The bill just addresses the federal prison population, which only makes up about 12 percent of incarcerated individuals in the U.S.
Among other indicators, Trump’s selection of Barr to replace Sessions strongly suggests that the president isn’t really serious about criminal justice reform. Indeed, the nominee’s record suggests he opposes the First Step Act, according to New York University’s Brennan Center. In November, Barr co-authored an op-ed praising Sessions law-and-order policies at the Justice Department.