Donald Trump on Crime
2016 Republican incumbent President; 2000 Reform Primary Challenger for President
Trump's actions simply directed the attorney general to enforce already-existing laws. The executive order doesn't create new laws or possible prison sentences. Trump issued the order that, among other things, directed the attorney general to "prioritize" certain cases of vandalism in accordance with "applicable law." The law has been around since 1964.
The president was asked about the case in light of Ava DuVernay's four-part Netflix series about the 1989 case. "You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt," Mr Trump said after a reporter asked him whether he would apologise to the five men.
Five black and Latino teenagers were convicted of attacking a 28-year-old white female jogger who was raped and beaten almost to death during a run in Central Park on 19 April, 1989. Authorities vacated their convictions in 2002, after [another] convicted murderer and serial rapist confessed to the attack and said he had committed it alone. DNA evidence backed up his confession. In 2014, the City of New York settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit with the five men for $41m.
The tweet comes as Newsom signs an executive order that would halt all executions at San Quentin State Prison, closing a new execution chamber. Newsom's order will go against the wishes of California voters, who in 2016 backed a measure to speed up executions.
Meanwhile, Trump has been a supporter of the death penalty. In October, Trump called for the death penalty for those who kill police officers. "Reducing crime begins with respecting law enforcement," Trump said. "We believe that criminals who kill our police officers should immediately, with trial, but rapidly as possible, not 15 years later, 20 years later--get the death penalty."
The president, who regularly brings up Chicago when talking about crime, said that city should strongly consider the controversial "stop and frisk" policy used when his lawyer Rudy Giuliani was mayor of NYC.
"I have directed the attorney general's office to immediately go to the great city of Chicago to help straighten out the terrible shooting wave. I'm going to straighten it out and straighten it out fast," Mr. Trump said. "There's no reason for what's going on there. I've told them to work with local authorities to try to change the terrible deal the city of Chicago entered into with ACLU, which ties law enforcement's hands and to strongly consider stop and frisk. It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. Got to be properly applied, but stop and frisk works."
TRUMP: Stop and frisk worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down. You take the gun away from criminals that shouldn't be having it. We have gangs roaming the street. And in many cases, they're illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very vigilant. Right now, our police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything. We have to protect our inner cities, because African-American communities are being decimated by crime.
Q: Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.
TRUMP: No, you're wrong. Our new mayor refused to go forward with the case. They would have won on appeal. There are many places where it's allowed.
Q: The argument is that it's a form of racial profiling.
TRUMP: No, the argument is that we have to take the guns away from bad people that shouldn't have them. You have to have stop-and-frisk.
The female jogger would survive the brutal beating but the young men were convicted and served 6 to 13 years in prison. But years later, a career criminal confessed to the rape, providing a DNA match. The convictions were overturned, and the city paid $41 million to settle a wrongful imprisonment suit that the men had filed. Trump called the settlement "a disgrace," refused to apologize, and said, "These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels." He said he wouldn't have given them "a dime" and insisted "they owe the taxpayers an apology for taking money out of their pockets."
Although he avoided naming the accused in the jogger case, Trump's reference to "roving bands of wild criminals" left no doubt about why he had paid for the ads. Newspaper accounts had described "wolf pack" gangs marauding in the park.
Young male murderers, we are constantly told, are led astray by violent music and violent movies. Fair enough. I believe that people are affected by what they read, see, hear, and experience. Only a fool believes otherwise. So you canít say on one hand that a kid is affected by music and movies and then turn around and say he is absolutely not affected when he turns on the evening news and sees that a criminal has gone to the chair for killing a child. Obviously capital punishment isnít going to deter everyone. But how can it not put the fear of death into many would-be killers?
TRUMP: We have a Senator named Tim Scott from South Carolina. He came up with a bill that should have been approved. It was great. It was a bill that was strong in terms of law enforcement, and strong in terms of enforcing the proper thing, and doing the proper thing by law enforcement. And the Democrats just wouldn't go for it. They wouldn't go for it at all. And I don't know why, because it was a really great bill.
BIDEN: One of the things that has to change is so many cops get called into circumstances where somebody is mentally off. That's why we have to provide within police departments psychologists and social workers to go out with the cops on those calls, some of those 911 calls to de-escalate the circumstance, to deal with talking them down. We shouldn't be defunding cops. We should be mandating the things that we should be doing within police departments and make sure there's total transparency.
Is that true about Portland, the site of ongoing police protests? No, Portland's Sheriff says it's not true. Excerpts from a 9/30 article in "The Hill" with headline "Sheriff from Portland quickly refutes Trump claim of endorsement":
"The sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes Portland, quickly refuted President Trump's claim of an endorsement during Tuesday night's first general election presidential debate. 'I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him,' Sheriff Mike Reese responded on Twitter. The sheriff added: 'Donald Trump has made my job a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland, but I never thought he'd try to turn my wife against me!' "
BIDEN: [Trump's] own former spokesperson said, "Riots and chaos and violence help his cause." That's what this is all about.
TRUMP: I don't know who said that.
BIDEN: I do. [Former White House advisor] Kellyanne Conway.
TRUMP: I don't think she said that.
[So we found this article from Business Insider magazine on Aug 27, 2020, headlined, "Kellyanne Conway says 'chaos and violence' after the police shooting of Jacob Blake is good for Trump's reelection"; excerpts:
"President Trump's close adviser, Kellyanne Conway, told Fox News that 'chaos and anarchy' following police shootings are good for Trump's reelection effort. 'The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order,' Conway said. Conway was referring to protests following the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week.
FactCheck: Did Biden use the term "super-predators"? No, not quite. Excerpts from Reason.com on Sept. 29:
Trump has attacked Joe Biden for his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill. It was Hillary Clinton, however, who infamously uttered the term "superpredators" back in 1996. (You can still find plenty of videos of floor speeches of then-Senator Biden railing against "predators" or generally demagoguing on the subject of violent crime.)
The rise of criminal justice reform as a major issue in politics has made the 1994 crime bill a liability for Biden, who has since apologized for his role in tough-on-crime legislation passed in the 1980s and '90s by large bipartisan margins.
In a speech last year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden said those bills "trapped an entire generation," and that "it was a big mistake when it was made."
If we can do a plan like Tim Scott's plan, which goes far enough but it doesn't take the dignity away from our police. We can't take their dignity away. We have to let them be able to do what they do. Police are so afraid today that if they do something slightly wrong, and their pension's gone, their job's gone, who knows what happens. It is a very tough job and it's a very dangerous job. We have to give them back their dignity and we have to give them back respect. These are great people for the most part. There's always going to be a bad apple in your business, and we have to weed out the bad apples.
TRUMP: And I have, except in Democrat run cities. Look, we have to go by the laws. We can't move in the National Guard unless we're requested by a governor. What happened in Minneapolis was pretty amazing. [Governor Tim Walz, D-MN,] allowed us to bring in the National Guard. When we brought in the National Guard, everything stopped, the crime was gone meaning the whole thing. But by that time a big portion of the city was burned down.
Wherever you have a Democrat city--not in all cases, but if you look at the really troubled cities in our country, they're Democrat-run and that's Biden. They're weak, they're ineffective.
Q: You're president for those cities right now.
TRUMP: I'm president, but I can only do what I'm allowed to do. I don't need an Insurrection Act to take care of 250 anarchists. We can do that very easily with the National Guard. We proved that Minneapolis.
TRUMP: Of course I do. Many whites are killed also. You have to say that.
WALLACE: I understand that.
TRUMP: I mean, many, many whites are killed. This is going on for decades. This is going on for a long time, long before I got here.
WALLACE: Why is it so bad right now?
TRUMP: Biden wants to defund the police.
Q: No, sir, he does not.
TRUMP: Look. He signed a charter with Bernie Sanders.
WALLACE: He says defund the police?
TRUMP: He says defund the police. They talk about abolishing the police.
(WALLACE VOICE OVER: The White House never sent us evidence the Bernie-Biden platform calls for defunding or abolishing police--because there is none. It calls for increased funding for police departments--that meet certain standards. Biden has called for redirecting some police funding for related programs--like mental health counseling.
Mother Jones Fact-Check: Yes, it's true that Trump signed a much-heralded bill in 2018 to reform the federal criminal justice system, with broad bipartisan support. The First Step Act made changes that have reduced the federal prison population, and it was the first criminal justice reform bill to pass Congress in a generation. So far, the law has shortened the prison stays of about 2,500 people who were serving disproportionately long sentences for crack cocaine offenses, most of them African American. And it could lead to improvements in prison conditions.
"Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer. Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFET BEGINS!
Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.But to create this future, we must work with--not against--the men and women of law enforcement. We must build bridges of cooperation and trust--not drive the wedge of disunity and division.
Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters--and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they'll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement. And we must support the victims of crime.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation--and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The important distinction here is that stop and frisk as a tactic is constitutional. The way it was applied in New York City, and as it was challenged in the lawsuit that Trump was referring to, was found unconstitutional. Blacks and Hispanics who were stopped by New York police sued the city, arguing that they were targeted for stops in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, confirmed that the practice was found unconstitutional in the 2013 case. But NYPD rejected the claim that stop and frisk is unconstitutional, saying Scheindlin ordered remedies to ensure the agency "applies the lawful policing tool constitutionally."
A: We need law and order. If we don't have it, we're not going to have a country. I just got today the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. We have endorsements from almost every police group, a large percentage of them in the US. We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African- Americans, Hispanics are living in he'll because it's so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.
"You know, I feel very strongly about law enforcement," Trump replied. "Law enforcement, it's got to play a big role."
Asked again if he believed there were racial disparities in law enforcement, Trump replied, "I've read where there are and I've read where there aren't. I mean, I've read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that."
TRUMP: The police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood, and if there is an incident--whether it's an incident done purposely, which is a horror, and you should really take very strong action--or if it is a mistake, it's on your newscasts, and it never ends. The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order, and they're afraid for their jobs, they're afraid of the mistreatment they get, and I'm telling you that not only, me speaking, minorities all over the country, they respect the police of this country and we have to give them more respect. They can't act. They're afraid for losing their pension, their job. They don't know what to do. They want to do their job. And you're going to have abuse and you're going to have problems, and you've got to solve the problems and you have to weed out the problems.
TRUMP: It's a massive crisis. It's a double crisis. I look at these things, I see them on television. And some horrible mistakes are made. But at the same time, we have to give power back to the police because crime is rampant. I believe very strongly that we need police.
Cities need strong police protection. But officers' jobs are being taken away from them. And there's no question about it, there is turmoil in our country on both sides.
Q: Do you understand why African Americans don't trust the police right now?
TRUMP: Well, I can certainly see it when I see what's going on. But at the same time, we have to give power back to the police because we have to have law and order. And you're always going to have mistakes made. And you're always going to have bad apples. But you can't let that stop the fact that police have to regain control of this tremendous crime wave that's hitting the US.
Soft criminal sentences are based on the proposition that criminals are the victims of society. A lot of people in high places really do believe that criminals are victims. The only victim of a violent crime is the person getting shot, stabbed, or raped. The perpetrator is never a victim. Heís nothing more than a predator.
Opposing press release from Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-1):: The reform sentencing laws in this bill may compromise the safety of our communities. Criminals convicted of violent crimes would have the opportunity to achieve 'low risk' status and become eligible for early release. California already has similar laws in place--Propositions 47 and 57--which have hamstrung law enforcement and caused a significant uptick in crime.
Supporting press release from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10):: S. 756 establishes a new system to reduce the risk that [federal prisoners] will commit crimes once they are released. Critically, S. 756 would not only implement these reforms to our prison system, but it also takes a crucial first step toward addressing grave concerns about our sentencing laws, which have for years fed a national crisis of mass incarceration. The bill is a 'first step' that demonstrates that we can work together to make the system fairer in ways that will also reduce crime and victimization.
Legislative outcome: Concurrence Passed Senate, 87-12-1, on Dec. 18, 2018; Concurrence Passed House 358-36-28, Dec. 20, 2018; President Trump signed, Dec. 21, 2018
Legislative summary of H.R.4052: This bill prohibits the imposition of a death penalty sentence for a violation of federal law. A person sentenced to death before enactment of this bill must be resentenced.
Press release and letter on Connolly.House.gov: Capital punishment is unjust, racist and defective. The United States stands alone among its peers in executing its own citizens, a barbaric punishment that denies the dignity and humanity of all people and is disproportionately applied to people who are Black, Latinx, and poor. In their letter, the lawmakers called on President-Elect Biden to affirm his commitment to eliminating the death penalty--as laid out in his criminal justice reform plan--by ending it through executive action on Day 1 of his administration. The lawmakers also made clear that in the 117th Congress, they will continue to work to advance H.R. 4052, legislation to permanently abolish the death penalty.
ProPublica summary by Isaac Arnsdorf 12/23/20: Throughout the campaign, Trump highlighted executions as a contrast to Joe Biden's opposition to the death penalty, reinforcing Trump's "law and order" message. The Justice Department has killed 10 people since July, with three more executions scheduled before Biden's inauguration. "Death penalty all the way," Trump said at a February 2016 campaign event. "I've always supported the death penalty. I don't even understand people that don't."
Until this year, the Justice Department hadn't executed anyone since 2003. A drug that most states and the federal government used in lethal injections, a sedative called sodium pentothal, became unavailable because the sole American manufacturer stopped making it. Shortly after Trump's presidency began, his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, [pushed] to resolve these issues so that the federal Bureau of Prisons could resume executions.
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