Ahead of a meeting with state leaders on state reform Thursday, President Donald Trump has privately expressed openness to supporting broader sentencing reforms beyond the narrower reforms to the nation’s prison system that he’s previously backed, sources tell ABC News.
Trump met with Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott and Chuck Grassley last week to discuss a comprehensive prison-reform bill that would address both prison and sentencing reform, according to a Capitol Hill source with knowledge of the meeting.
The source described the meeting as “positive.”
While the House has already passed a bill that would seek to make limited reforms to improve the nation’s prison system, the legislation has stalled at the feet of Grassley, the powerful Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Grassley, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform in Congress, has taken a principled stance in refusing to advance legislation that doesn’t include broader sentencing guidelines.
The Senate is now expected to move forward with a modified version of the House bill that will reduce the current mandatory life sentence for certain drug offenses from a life sentence to 25 years, prohibit the doubling of mandatory sentences for certain gun and drug offenses, broaden judicial discretion, and make retroactive the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act that narrowed the discrepancy in sentencing guidelines for crack versus powdered cocaine.
Grassley emerged “encouraged” that the president is supportive of a broader criminal justice reform and expressed optimism that a legislative victory is within reach.
“Progress on this issue has been stalled for too long. I think it’s clear now that the President is engaged on this issue and is supportive of a reasonable compromise,” Grassley said in a statement to ABC News. “With his leadership I think we can get a bipartisan deal done — one that’s tough on crime, but fair and that gives prisoners trying to improve their lives a second bite at the apple.”
Separately, in a meeting with inner-city pastors last week, a source with knowledge of the meeting said the president “essentially came out in support of broad-based reforms to the criminal justice system.”
Meanwhile, a White House official pushed back on that characterization, saying the president only expressed his willingness to consider broader reforms if it can be demonstrated that such a package would have success in Congress.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, has been leading a sustained effort toward progress on criminal justice reform, as previously reported by ABC News.
Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, pleaded guilty in 2005 to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations. He served 14 months of a 24-month sentence in federal prison and the remainder of his term at a halfway house in New Jersey.
Jared Kushner traveled frequently to Montgomery, Alabama, on weekends to visit his father behind bars.