The Justice Department will announce later this week new criteria to use when recommending clemency applications to President Obama, a move that Attorney General Eric Holder said could result in "thousands" of applications for reduced sentences.
The change is aimed at reducing prison sentences for those who were convicted years ago under drug laws that no longer carry as harsh of punishments. Yet the new criteria could affect many other non-violent drug offenders who feel they deserve some leniency, too.
"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety," Holder said in a video statement posted to the DOJ's website Monday.
Holder did not elaborate on what the new criteria would entail, saying only that it would make the department's clemency review process more "expansive." And to handle the potential flood of applications, he said the DOJ could "potentially" beef up its staff with dozens of new attorneys.
Obama hasn't used his clemency powers much, though both he and the DOJ have signaled in recent months that they planned to do something to aid non-violent drug offenders. Back in January, New York Deputy Attorney General James Cole said having so many low-level offenders clogging up jails "is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system." Jon Terbush
Alabama's Senator-elect Doug Jones (D) made an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, talking with host Jake Tapper about his win at the polls this past week, his plans for his new role in Washington, and President Trump.
Jones broke with fellow Democrats who have said the president should resign because of sexual harassment accusations made against him. "Those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge" last year, Jones said. "We need to move on and not get distracted by those issues."
Jones also indicated he won't be a strict party-line voter in the Senate given his may GOP constituents. "Now, don't expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats," he said. "I'm going to talk to people on both sides of the aisle, try to figure out what I think is in the best interest of my state and in the country."
Watch the full CNN interview below. Bonnie Kristian
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short had a testy conversation with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday in which he maintained the Trump administration is not internally debating whether to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller from his probe into Russian election meddling efforts.
Todd raised the subject of emails the Trump transition team claims Mueller obtained unlawfully, but Short pleaded ignorance of the specifics of that situation. Instead, he argued the Russia investigation in general has been wasteful and unnecessary, which led to this rapid-fire exchange:
Todd: Ok, but is the president going to continue to cooperate?
Short: He is continuing to cooperate —
Todd: Or is he setting the stage —
Short: No, come on, Chuck.
Todd: For firing Bob Mueller?
Short: No, there's no conversation —
Todd: There's no way he's going to fire him?
Short: There's no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House, Chuck.
Todd: None whatsoever?
Short: You guys keep bringing that up. We have continued to cooperate in every single possible way with that investigation. [NBC]
Mueller's office denied accessing the emails unlawfully, stating it has always "secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process" when obtaining communications for the investigation. Watch an excerpt of the NBC interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 17, 2017
Britain's Prince Harry has interviewed former President Obama for a radio show set to air later this month. Though recorded in September, the first teaser clip of the conversation was shared by Kensington Palace social media accounts Sunday.
Clocking in under a minute, the short video sees Obama and the prince joking as they prepare to begin their interview. "Do I have to speak faster, because I'm a slow speaker?" Obama asks. "Do I need a British accent?" Harry assures him that won't be necessary, but warns against leaving Obama's trademark "long pauses between the answers." Watch the teaser below. Bonnie Kristian
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 17, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not the only federal agency reportedly prohibited by the Trump White House from using words and phrases including "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based."
The Washington Post reported Saturday evening that other divisions in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been given the same list of banned terms. Furthermore, staff at one agency were reportedly told to say "ObamaCare" instead of "Affordable Care Act," and ObamaCare "exchanges" instead of "marketplaces," while the State Department is calling sex education "sexual risk avoidance."
California's Thomas Fire grew to be the second-largest wildfire in the state's recorded history by Sunday morning. The blaze has burned more than 267,000 acres and is expected to grow larger than the all-time biggest California fire as soon as Sunday night thanks to continued high winds in Southern California. The fire now poses a serious threat to hundreds of homes in Montecito, a coastal town on the outskirts of Santa Barbara.
"When the [sundowner winds] surface in that area and the fire starts running down slopes, you are not going to stop it," said Mark Brown, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "And we are not going to stand in front of it and put firefighters in untenable situations."
See the fire's projected growth via the Los Angeles Times below. Bonnie Kristian
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) December 12, 2017
President Trump defended congressional Republicans' final tax bill while speaking with reporters Saturday, accusing Democrats of criticizing the plan without knowing what it will do. "It's going to be one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people," Trump said. "The Democrats have their sound bite, the standard sound bite before they even know what the bill is all about."
Trump also praised the strength of the economy, which he said will "start to rock" at up to 6 percent annual growth thanks to the tax bill and "what we've done with regulation and other things." Watch an excerpt of the president's comments via his Twitter account below. Bonnie Kristian
TAX CUTS will increase investment in the American economy and in U.S. workers, leading to higher growth, higher wages, and more JOBS! pic.twitter.com/4GxM8psMU1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2017
Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) is excited to trim the White House tree now that he has declared an end to hostilities in the "War on Christmas," and this year, the first family is decorating on a theme. Joined by the first lady, some of his children, and various administration staff, Trump adorns his "tree of shame" with ornaments featuring the faces of "all the haters and losers [he] destroyed this year."
The haters and losers are mostly former members of the Trump White House, but fired FBI Director James Comey and former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are on the tree, too. Elf on the Shelf Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Kate McKinnon) shows up on the mantel to help with the tree trimming and wish everyone a merry Christmas, because "everybody is gonna get away with everything!"
Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian