Warren promises change to presidential clemency: Campaign update

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Ryan Teague Beckwith

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that she would seek to give more power to the president to grant clemency and pardons.

Warren said that her administration would remove the process from the Department of Justice and instead create a clemency board that would work directly with the White House to prioritize cases of older individuals who were incarcerated for “unduly long sentences.” If the board decides that those individuals don’t pose a danger to public safety, they’d be granted a presumption of release.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., embraces performer John Legend during a campaign event, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, at Charleston Music Hall in Charleston, S.C.

“The president has significant powers to grant clemency and pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly,” Warren wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “But today’s hierarchical process at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations.”

Warren said prison conditions in the U.S. make long sentences “inhumane.” The proposal, which was adopted from a plan offered by former 2020 candidate Cory Booker, comes two days before the primary in South Carolina, where more than half of the Democratic electorate is African American.

SEIU Targets Infrequent Minority Voters (1:35 p.m.)

The Service Employees International Union said it will spend an unprecedented $150 million trying to turn out infrequent minority voters in battleground states on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) speaks before the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

The union, which has so far held off on endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, is looking to boost the eventual presidential nominee with a massive canvassing project in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Targets include Filipinos in Las Vegas, Puerto Ricans in Florida and black voters in Detroit and Milwaukee.

Canvassers will attempt to individually contact more than 6 million individual voters, in as many as five different languages. The goal is to reach registered voters who haven’t voted regularly in the past few elections and follow-up regularly until Election Day.

It will build on a similar effort involving tens of millions of dollars that the SEIU mounted in the 2018 midterm elections. – Josh Eidelson and Ryan Teague Beckwith

Coming Up

South Carolina will hold its primary on Saturday, Feb. 29. Fourteen states and one U.S. territory will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

With assistance from Josh Eidelson.