Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) made an abrupt reverse on speaking at a criminal justice forum at a historically black college on Saturday, Oct. 26, after publicly announcing she would boycott the event due to a sponsoring group’s decision to give an award to President Trump.
The 2020 presidential hopeful on Friday announced that she would pull out of the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, after the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center awarded the president for his efforts to pass sweeping criminal justice reform legislation.
Harris and Trump traded barbs on Twitter Saturday morning—with Trump calling Harris a “badly failing presidential candidate,” and Harris suggesting the president is a “criminal.”
….greatly help the African American community (and all other communities), and which was unable to get done in past administrations despite a tremendous desire for it. This and best unemployment numbers EVER is more than Kamala will EVER be able to do for African Americans!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2019
But then, Harris made a flip flop with a campaign announcement saying that she would be attending the forum.
The Harris campaign said in a statement that, despite the group’s claims, Harris spoke with the understanding that she was participating in the new forum. “In no way, shape, or form is Kamala Harris interested in affiliating or associating with a group that would honor Trump in this way.”
“After Senator Kamala Harris stood up and objected to their group awarding Trump and excluding HBCU students from participating, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center was removed as a sponsor for the criminal justice forum at Benedict College,” the Harris campaign said in a statement Saturday. “After their removal, Harris announced 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.”
Several other Democrats appeared onstage, including presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The New Jersey senator congratulated the college on its decision to remove the Justice Center as event sponsor—even as the group itself posted a photo of Booker speaking, continuing its claim to the event.
President Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award for his efforts to pass the First Step Act, which allows thousands of nonviolent offenders to gain early release from federal prison.
As district attorney and later attorney general, Harris has drawn sharp criticism for her own record on criminal justice reform, which is truly mixed. She pushed for programs that reduce the number of people in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She defended California’s death penalty system in court but refused to pursue capital punishment against a man who killed a police officer.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press.