Group Withdraws from Criminal Justice Forum After Giving Award to Trump

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was one of ten Democratic presidential candidates slated to attend a bipartisan forum on criminal justice reform in South Carolina when she unexpectedly backed out after the event sponsor gave a “bipartisan justice” award to President Donald Trump. In a Twitter post Friday, the former California prosecutor said she would hold a separate event and not “be complicit in papering over his record.” 

Now Harris will attend the event following the removal of the sponsor, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Group, that bestowed the award on Trump. “She led, and she got results,” said Ian Sams, Harris’ national press secretary, on Twitter. 

Harris, who received the same award as Trump in 2016, exchanged blistering tweets with him after Trump blasted her for briefly withdrawing from the forum. 

My whole life I’ve fought for justice and for the people—something you’d know nothing about,” she replied. “The only part of criminal justice you can claim credit for is the ‘criminal’ part.”

The forum where Trump was honored this week took place at historically black Benedict College, where only seven students were permitted to attend his speech. Other students and faculty members were instructed to remain inside due to “safety concerns and threats of protests,” school spokesperson Kymm Hunter told USA Today. After rejoining the forum, Harris’ campaign said in a press release that her protest would lead to “increased HBCU student participation” in the rest of the forum.

Trump, who grew to prominence among Republicans for parroting the racist lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, has repeatedly deployed racist rhetoric in his speeches and tweets, most recently in one that compared the House’s impeachment inquiry into his conduct to “a lynching.” The comments led to an uproar ahead of Trump’s planned remarks in South Carolina. “I definitely think that those comments were in poor taste, and they were inflammatory, and I think he should apologize,” said Tishaura Jones, Democratic co-chair of the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center. “But we’re never gonna get an apology from the president.”

Trump delivered his speech Friday as scheduled, speaking mainly about his administration’s reform bill, but veering near the end to the House’s impeachment inquiry, which he said has made him aware of the impact of an unfair justice system. “You know I have my own experience,” he said. “You see what’s going on with the witch hunt. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our country—no crimes—it’s an investigation in search of a crime.”

That same day, a federal judge in Washington, DC issued a ruling that negated the premise of Trump’s comparison. The impeachment inquiry is a legal process, the court decided, entitling lawmakers to evidence the Justice Department had said they were not entitled to. 

BREAKING: Kamala Harris Will Participate in Criminal Justice Forum After Sponsor That Awarded Trump Is Removed

California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is back on the schedule at a criminal justice forum after the event dropped the sponsor that gave President Donald Trump an award on Friday.

On Friday night, Senator Harris announced she was pulling out of the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College — a historically black college (HBCU) — citing Trump’s history of “racist behavior” and the exclusion of all but seven students from an event at which Trump was honored.

That move drew an attack from Trump and a counterattack from Harris. But on Saturday afternoon, the Harris campaign announced that Senator Harris is back on the schedule because the sponsor that awarded Trump has been removed from the event (statement via email from the Harris Campaign):

After Group That Awarded Trump Is Removed As Sponsor, Kamala Harris To Join Mayor Steve Benjamin and Benedict College Students for Forum

Harris’ Decision to Protest Forum Led To Increased HBCU Student Participation and Removal of Sponsor That Awarded Trump

After the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center was removed as a sponsor for the criminal justice forum at Benedict College in response to her protests of the event, Senator Kamala Harris is announcing she will join students, Mayor Steve Benjamin and the broader Columbia community on campus at Benedict to discuss critical issues for the country’s justice system.

“I am excited to welcome presidential candidates to a criminal justice forum dialogue which will allow Benedict College students and the wider community to have full participation,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “I want to be clear that the Candidate Forums are hosted by myself and Benedict College. This portion of the weekend is not a 20/20 Presidential Justice Center event.”

Harris announced yesterday she would not participate in the event after hearing the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center excluded students from participating and gave Trump, who has spent decades exhibiting racist behavior and promoting injustice for African Americans, a justice award. Harris instead planned to host a separate forum on important justice issues in protest of this group’s involvement and the exclusion of HBCU student participation in the event. As a result of her leadership, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center has been dropped from the event, the event was made free and open to the public, and more HBCU students at Benedict have been included in the event. Because of these important changes, Harris will now participate in the conversation with Benjamin, Benedict and its students, and the broader Columbia community.

Prior to this announcement, Senator Harris had planned her own separate criminal justice roundtable. You can watch the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum live here.

Poll: Most voters say there are too many Dems on debate stage

As the Democratic National Committee looks to whittle down the sprawling field of presidential hopefuls beginning with this week‘s debate, most voters — including a majority of Democratic primary voters — still believe there will be too many candidates on the stage on Thursday.

According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out Wednesday, 54 percent of voters say that the number of White House hopefuls who will debate on Thursday — 10 — is more than enough. That number dips ever so slightly among Democratic primary voters, to 53 percent.

About a third of Democratic primary voters, 34 percent, say they think Thursday’s debate stage will have just the right amount of candidates, compared with a quarter of all registered voters, the survey found.

Thursday’s contest will be the first time every candidate meeting the DNC’s debate qualifications will be on the same stage — after the first two primary debates of the cycle needed to be spilled over onto a second night.

The more stringent requirements set by the party for the third and fourth debates set up a showdown between former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led the sizable field in nearly all public polling, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has largely solidified her spot in the top tier of candidates in recent months.

That consensus was more or less borne out in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll’s findings of whom Democratic primary voters expected to have the best showing in Houston on Thursday, though those dynamics have shifted some since primary debates began earlier this summer.

Biden carries the highest expectations among Democratic primary voters, with 24 percent picking the former vice president to have the best performance. Warren was next, with 19 percent of voters, and Sen. Bernie Sanders rounded out the top three with 18 percent, more than double the next-closest candidate.

“As Elizabeth Warren seeks to capitalize on campaign momentum, our polling suggests expectations for her debate performance have grown since the first debates,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president. “Notably, 19 percent of Democratic primary voters said they thought she would perform best, compared with 12 percent who said the same ahead of the June debates. This compares to lower expectations of former Vice President Joe Biden, which are down 6 points over the same period (30 percent to 24 percent).”

Voters already unhappy with the size of the debate stage on Thursday are set to be disappointed: Eleven candidates have already qualified for the next debate in October, with several more on the fringes, according to a POLITICO analysis. This virtually ensures that there will be either a larger stage or a second night of debates, as the DNC has previously said it does not plan to feature more than 10 candidates on the same debate stage.

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted Sept. 7-8 online among a national sample of 1,998 registered voters. including 815 likely Democratic primary voters. The full survey of registered voters has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.

More details on the poll and its methodology can be found in these two documents: Toplines: https://politi.co/2lH5UuC | Crosstabs: https://politi.co/2kFBwQT

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine