BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Trump is publicly pressing for prison reform while his administration privately works on an agreement with Congress that would overhaul a bigger swath of the criminal justice system but may rile tough-on-crime conservatives.
Trump hosted a roundtable Thursday with governors, state attorneys general and Cabinet officials on prison reform during his 11-day working vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. It’s the second week in a row in which Trump has held meetings on the issue.
Behind the scenes, the administration and congressional officials are crafting an agreement that would add significant changes in the nation’s mandatory sentencing laws to a widely popular prison reform bill that passed the House earlier this year, according to two officials familiar with the discussions.
During Thursday’s roundtable, Trump said the administration was working to “refine” the House-backed measure in the Senate.
“I have to say, we have tremendous political support. It surprises me. I thought that when we started this journey about a year ago, I thought we would not have a lot of political support,” Trump said, flanked by the state officials and some of his top aides. “People I would least suspect are behind it, 100 percent.”
The deal in progress would add four provisions overhauling the sentencing system — legislation written by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and backed by a broad coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans — to the House bill, which does not touch sentencing laws but focuses on reducing recidivism among prisoners, the officials said.