President Donald Trump’s influence has shrunk as he fights impeachment and faces administrative chaos.
Trump was talked into backing the First Step Act, which shortened many prison sentences and expanded job-training programs for inmates, by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and the bill passed last year.
But the Justice Department has been working to keep in prison many of the nonviolent drug offenders the law was intended to help, despite the sweeping reforms pushed by the president and approved by Congress.
Federal prosecutors have argued that hundreds of inmates who applied for relief under the new law are ineligible, and prosecutors are trying to send back to prison at least a half dozen inmates released under the First Step Act.
“DOJ is pushing against the will of the people, the will of Congress, the will of the president,” said conservative activist Holly Harris, who worked to pass the law as head of the Justice Action Network.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was an outspoken critic of reducing prison sentences, and his successor William Barr expressed similar concerns before his appointment.
Trump isn’t having much luck with his signature campaign promise to limit immigration, either.
His long-promised “wall remains largely unbuilt, so-called sanctuary cities are still receiving federal money and birthright citizenship remains intact,” according to Politico.
The Department of Homeland Security has burned through four secretaries in three years, and disgruntled aides are feuding over who the next leader should be.
“The reason there is such disarray at the leadership level of DHS is because there is disarray and disunity within the White House on the immigration issue generally,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies.
Six other top department officials have left the administration since April out of concern from Trump allies that they hadn’t been tough enough against immigration, and many of the senior leadership positions at DHS remain vacant or filled by acting officials.
“There’s just a lot of resignation that we can’t spend anymore time worrying about it,” said a former DHS official who served in a Republican administration. “Everybody’s just worn out because it’s been 2½ years of white-hot focus.”
Trump’s weak leadership and his unwillingness to work are largely to blame for these failures, according to Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein.
The president doesn’t choose executive branch leaders or staffers because they share his views on policy, but instead picks people who flatter him or look strong defending him on TV.
That leads to administrative conflict or incompetence, and Trump’s light work schedule makes things even worse, Bernstein argued.
“Normal presidents go through the day with back-to-back meetings while also making time for extensive briefings on what’s happening in the world, in the nation, and within the administration,” he wrote. “Trump … doesn’t.”