DeSantis says he would push to repeal Trump criminal justice reform if elected

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday that if elected president, he would call on Congress to repeal the criminal justice reform bill signed into law by then-President Trump, his latest attack on Trump from the right.

DeSantis, appearing on “The Ben Shapiro Show,” criticized the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill passed in 2018 that reduced mandatory minimum sentences, expanded credits for well-behaved prisoners looking for shorter sentences and aimed to reduce recidivism.

The Florida governor, who officially entered the 2024 White House race on Wednesday, called the legislation “basically a jailbreak bill.”

“So one of the things I would want to do as president is go to Congress and seek the repeal of the First Step Act,” he said. “If you are in jail, you should serve your time. And the idea that they’re releasing people who have not been rehabilitated early, so that they can prey on people in our society is a huge, huge mistake.”

DeSantis voted for the initial House version of the bill while serving as a congressman in 2018, something Trump’s team has highlighted. He had resigned his seat before the final version, which critics argued contained significant changes from the House version to make it more moderate, came up for a vote later in 2018.

Still, the criminal justice bill is one example of how DeSantis is likely to argue that Trump is not conservative enough for primary voters. DeSantis’s comments came on the same day that he told a Tennessee radio host that he felt Trump was “running to the left.”

Trump signed the First Step Act into law in December 2018, touted it as a major achievement that would improve community safety and give a second-chance to those who earned it.

But the former president and the Republican Party as a whole have largely shied away from the politics of the criminal justice reform bill over the last few years, instead hammering the issue of crime and accusing Democrats of making cities less safe.

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