Buttigieg, struggling with black voters, releases plan to address racial inequities
WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg, whose presidential campaign is struggling to appeal to African-American voters even as it gains more support from Democratic donors, on Thursday released a plan to “dismantle racist structures and systems” in the federal government.
Buttigieg’s announcement comes after weeks of scrutiny of his record on racial justice as mayor of South Bend, Ind., where a white police officer shot and killed a black man last month.
The episode turned into a severe test of his leadership, spawning protests among South Bend’s black residents and raising questions about his handling of policing issues in the city. Buttigieg suspended his campaign for several days to return and meet with members of the black community.
Buttigieg has offered a frank acknowledgment of his shortcomings in this area, saying during last month’s debate that he has not done a sufficient job recruiting police officers of color during his seven years as mayor.
“I couldn’t get it done,” he said.
Without increasing his standing among black voters, Buttigieg faces a difficult path to the White House. He entered the campaign largely unknown among black voters, many of whom received their first introduction to him through news about the South Bend shooting.
The policy proposal Buttigieg unveiled Thursday appeared to be a way to position himself at the forefront of efforts to reduce longstanding inequities in federal and state criminal justice systems.
The plan includes health, education, and voting-rights reforms. But it is particularly focused on addressing discrimination in policing and criminal justice.
His goals include many of the major changes sought by liberal criminal justice reform groups, and in some cases conservative groups as well.
They include eliminating federal incarceration for drug possession and reducing sentences for other drug offenses; legalizing marijuana at the federal level; limiting solitary confinement; and abolishing the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentencing.
Buttigieg also called for the establishment of several measures specifically addressing policing: tightening the legal standard for police officers to use deadly force; creating a federal database of officers fired from police departments; and persuading states to disclose more data on use of force, line-of-duty deaths, traffic stops, and officer misconduct.
Derek Cohen, the director of Right on Crime, a leader in conservative efforts to reform the criminal justice system, estimated that 20 percent of Buttigieg’s proposals were within the purview of the federal government. The rest are squarely within the authority of state and local officials, he said.
New York Times
Price tag for Trump’s July 4 event hits $5.4m
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s July Fourth extravaganza — featuring tanks, a military flyover, and a Trump speech at the Lincoln Memorial — cost an estimated $5.4 million, according to rough figures Thursday.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt provided the latest share of costs, $2.45 million for his agency, in a letter to lawmakers, saying his agency pulled money from operating funds for national parks, recreation fees, and another source to help fund Trump’s Salute to America.
The event included donated fireworks, a military flyover, and Trump’s speech to a rained-on crowd at the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump announced Monday he would do it all again next year, calling the event ‘‘remarkable.’’
Democratic lawmakers have condemned the extra expenditures for the Independence Day celebration, which came in addition to the traditional concert, fireworks, and events held near the US Capitol.
Arizona Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and one of several Democrats who had demanded a full cost accounting, said in response to Interior’s funding estimates that the public funds were spent to ‘‘celebrate President Trump.’’
Bernhardt called the use of public funds justified, and cited past administrations’ spending for concerts, parades, and other celebrations in and around the National Mall. Interior’s costs included crowd accommodations such as temporary fencing and portable toilets.
In addition, the Department of Defense says its costs came to $1.2 million. Despite repeated requests, the Pentagon as of Thursday refused to provide a precise breakdown.
The military’s efforts included positioning tanks on flat-bed trailers around the capital, meeting Trump’s desire for tanks while minimizing damage to district roads from the heavy armor.
Separately, Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser wrote Trump to say the district’s costs for Trump’s July Fourth event have drained a special fund used to provide security and protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats.
The District of Columbia estimates it spent about $1.7 million, not including police expenses for related demonstrations.
Bowser wrote Trump that the fund will have a $6 million deficit by September, reminding the president that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
White House spokesman Judd Deere says officials will respond ‘‘in a timely manner.’’
Joint Chiefs nominee says keep troops in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — Pulling American troops prematurely from Afghanistan would be a ‘‘strategic mistake,’’ the Army general nominated to be Joint Chiefs chairman told senators Thursday. Mark Milley also said the United States should keep a ‘‘modest number’’ of forces in Iraq and Syria for now to maintain stability.
Milley assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will give his candid advice to President Trump regardless of any potential consequences to himself.
‘‘We’ve buried soldiers. Arlington is full of our comrades. We understand absolutely full well the hazards of our chosen profession,’’ Milley said, in response to questions from Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine, about whether he would be willing to tell Trump that he thought the president was wrong on any issue. ‘‘We know what this is about and we are not going to be intimidated into making stupid decisions.’’
The 61-year-old Milley, who is Trump’s pick to replace General Joseph Dunford, said ‘‘no one, ever’’ would intimidate him.