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Cory Booker: 'Stunning' to compare Trump, Biden on criminal justice reform

In July 2019, the New Jersey Democratic senator criticized Biden's record on criminal justice reform, writing that the "proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it."

Updated: October 23, 2020 - 11:08pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

After clashing over the 1994 crime bill with former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on Friday that comparing Biden and Trump's records on criminal justice reform is "stunning" and "not even debatable."

In July 2019, Booker, a presidential candidate at the time, addressed the Biden campaign's criminal justice reform plan, writing that Biden had "more than 40 years to get this right" and that the "proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it."

During a Democratic primary debate on CNN, Booker, former mayor of Newark, N.J., was critical of Biden's involvement in writing the 1994 crime bill 

"There are people right now in prison for life for drug offenses because you stood up and used that tough-on-crime phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine," Booker said, referencing Newark.

During the final presidential debate on Thursday night, Trump slammed Biden's role in passing the 1994 crime in through the Senate and touted the First Step Act, which he signed into law in 2018.

Biden said that "we should not send anyone to jail for a pure drug offense" and that "they should be going into treatment across the board."

In response, Trump said: "You were vice president, along with Obama as your president, your leader, for eight years. Why didn't you get it done? You had eight years to get it done? Now, you're saying you're going to get it done because you're all talk and no action, Joe."

Just the News asked Booker on Friday which presidential candidate has the better record on criminal justice reform.

"I've talked a lot about criminal justice reform, as you know, and led efforts in the Senate to get a bipartisan bill [First Step Act] done that President Trump did indeed sign," Booker said after unveiling a new bill aimed at protecting Americans in nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the pandemic. "But to compare these two men on their criminal justice reform efforts is stunning to me because Donald Trump is a guy that came into the White House and immediately had his attorney general rip up all of the more humane practices that were going on."

Booker said Trump's Justice Department sent memos out to prosecutors across the United States advising them to end the Obama era's "sane charging policies when it came to nonviolent drug offenders" and to charge the highest possible charges for nonviolent drug offenses.

Booker added that the Trump Administration hasn't moved forward on policing reform.

"Biden was in the White House and a partner of Barack Obama, they did the 21st century task force on policing, where they brought two people together, not just from different political sides," he said. "They brought together big city police chiefs and Black Lives Matter folks to come up with the one of the most exciting, innovative sets of recommendations for police reform."

Booker said the Obama administration's recommendations on police reform that came out of the 21st century task force haven't been implemented.

"So to me, it's not even debatable," Booker said. "I can give you a lot more evidence about how much more enlightened Biden is, not on what he's saying he will do, but what he was engaged in and doing as a part of the Obama-Biden White House."

Booker also referred to Trump tweeting that Booker himself is seeking to ruin the suburbs by supporting more low-income housing.

"One of the things that is making race issues more difficult in this country is we have a president — I'm Exhibit A — that continues to try to scare Americans, make us hate each other, suspicious of each other," Booker said.