The Washington Post Fact Checker tries to sort out competing claims by President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden on who is more responsible for federal criminal justice reform advances. Last week, Trump said, “I did criminal justice reform, which President Obama could not get approved, which the media never talks about.” Biden, in the July 31 Democratic candidate debate, said the bill Trump talks about “is a bill that in my — our administration, we passed.” The Post says that Trump gives no credit to Obama. And Biden, minimizes the scope of the First Step Act that Trump signed in 2018, describing it is an add-on to Obama’s legislation. In fact, the law Trump signed goes well beyond that.
The bill Obama signed in 2010 was the Fair Sentencing Act, which repealed the five-year mandatory sentence for first-time drug offenders and reducing the sentencing disparity involving crack and powder cocaine from 100-1 to 18 to 1 for repeat offenders. The First Step Act shortens mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. It also eases a federal “three strikes” rule that imposes a life sentence for three or more convictions, and issues a 25-year sentence instead. It expands the “drug safety-valve,” which would give judges more discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums when sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses. It makes the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. Quoting the old saying, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan,” the Post says Trump and Biden are trying to orphan each other on criminal justice reform instead of accepting that their administrations share parenting duties. The newspaper gives Trump three “Pinocchios” for his misstatement an Biden two “Pinocchios” for his.