President Trump wrapped up his trip to Japan by continuing to attack former Vice President Joe Biden for supporting the infamous 1994 “Three Strikes” crime bill that mandated life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes.
And the president stepped up his attacks on Biden’s intelligence, endorsing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s description of Biden as “a low IQ individual.”
Tuesday afternoon, back in Washington and facing growing criticism for siding with Kim over an American vice president, while on foreign soil, Trump attempted to soften his comments, tweeting:
I was actually sticking up for Sleepy Joe Biden while on foreign soil. Kim Jong Un called him a “low IQ idiot,” and many other things, whereas I related the quote of Chairman Kim as a much softer “low IQ individual.” Who could possibly be upset with that?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2019
The 1994 law has come under criticism for its disproportionate impact on African-Americans and is a prime target of the criminal justice reform movement.
“Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing,” Trump tweeted. “That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”
The president added: “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!”
Last December, Trump signed into law a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, called the First Step Act, that reduced mandatory minimum prison sentences. The president drew bipartisan praise for his support of the legislation.
But Trump wasn’t always a champion of reforming prison laws to help African-Americans.
In 1989, after black and Latino teenagers known as the Central Park Five were accused of the brutal rape and assault of a female jogger in New York City, Trump took out full-page ads in four New York City newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty.
Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after DNA evidence and the confession of a convicted rapist and murderer exonerated them.
As late as 2016, Trump said he remained convinced of their guilt.
And as president, Trump has called for the death penalty for nonviolent criminals, such as drug dealers.
Last year, while unveiling a plan to combat the opioid epidemic, Trump ordered the Justice Department to pursue the death penalty for drug traffickers.
“[They] kill so many thousands of our citizens every year,” Trump said. “That’s why my Department of Justice will be seeking so many tougher penalties than we’ve ever had, and we’ll be focusing on the penalties that I talked about previously for big pushers, the ones that are killing so many people, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty.
“Other countries don’t play games,” he added. “But the ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty.”
During his weekend trip to Japan, Trump stirred controversy by downplaying North Korea’s missile tests, saying they don’t bother him “personally,” although “my people think it could have been a violation” of the agreement Trump struck with Kim at their earlier summit.
Kim’s assessment of Biden was mild compared to his description of Trump in 2017 as a “mentally deranged dotard.”
Trump’s simultaneous praise for the North Korean leader and attack on the former vice president did not sit well with the Biden team. On Tuesday, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield issued a statement, writing, “The President’s comments are beneath the dignity of the office. To be on foreign soil, on Memorial Day, and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former Vice President speaks for itself. And it’s part of a pattern of embracing autocrats at the expense of our institutions — whether taking Putin’s word at face value in Helsinki or exchanging ‘love letters’ with Kim Jong Un.”
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