Trump goes on tirade after winning criminal justice award

Trump is presented with an award by Byron Donalds (left) and Matthew Charles at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.
Trump is presented with an award by Byron Donalds (left) and Matthew Charles at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (TCA/DPA) - President Donald Trump attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and sparred with Senator Kamala Harris, engaging in a feisty online back-and-forth on Saturday (Oct 26) over their separate efforts to connect with African American voters.

Trump went after Harris, the California Democrat who is seeking a lift for her presidential campaign, in a tweet responding to her announcement that she would skip her appearance at a criminal justice reform convention in Columbia, South Carolina, because Trump had been honoured by the group on Friday at historically black Benedict College.

"Badly failing presidential candidate @KamalaHarris will not go to a very wonderful largely African American event today because yesterday I received a major award, at the same event, for being able to produce & sign into law major Criminal Justice Reform legislation, which will..." he wrote, linking to a second tweet.

" ... greatly help the African American community (and all other communities), and which was unable to get done in past administrations despite a tremendous desire for it," he continued.

"This and best unemployment numbers EVER is more than Kamala will EVER be able to do for African Americans!"

Randomly, a third tweet in the thread about Harris included only an ellipsis of four periods.

Trump, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, made the First Step Act that he signed into a law in December 2018 a focus of his remarks on Friday, looking to increase his support with black voters, most of whom tend to favour Democrats, at an event organised to draw a number of Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Harris on Friday night had announced her decision to forgo her scheduled appearance and instead hold a roundtable with local students and the broader Columbia community.

She is the only presidential candidate to have graduated from a historically black college or university (HBCU).

"When it became clear Donald Trump would receive an award after decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent Black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures and racist behaviour that puts people's lives at risk, and then learned all but 10 Benedict students are excluded from participating, I cannot in good faith be complicit in papering over his record," she said.

Other Democratic candidates did not cancel their plans to be at Benedict on Saturday, including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, the black former mayor of Newark who has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his campaign. But Booker had harsh words about the award given to Trump.

In prepared remarks shared with the media, he pilloried the Bipartisan Justice Centre for bestowing Trump with an honour and a platform Booker said was undeserved and that he said masked Trump's record of promoting racist policies.

Harris' updated schedule includes a "criminal justice roundtable with HBCU students."

Notably, only seven Benedict College students attended Trump's speech on Friday, delivered to a crowd of 300 people, half of whom were supportive politicians, White House aides and guests.

A day after Trump paid tribute to Representative Elijah Cummings, who was eulogised by two former presidents during a Baltimore funeral service that drew lawmakers from both parties but not the president himself, he attacked Pelosi on Saturday in tweets reminiscent of his July outburst about Cummings' congressional district that was full of racial undertones.

"I can't believe that Nancy Pelosi's District in San Francisco is in such horrible shape that the City itself is in violation of many sanitary & environmental orders, causing it to owe the Federal Government billions of dollars - and all she works on is Impeachment..." Trump tweeted.

He continued: " ...We should all work together to clean up these hazardous waste and homeless sites before the whole city rots away. Very bad and dangerous conditions, also severely impacting the Pacific Ocean and water supply. Pelosi must work on this mess and turn her District around!"

Trump, who has made a habit of attacking American cities, depicting them as dirty and unsafe, has shown scant interest in environmental issues save for instances where he has criticised leaders in California over water management and wildfire mitigation efforts.

Frustrated with Pelosi's handling of the House Democratic impeachment inquiry that began a month ago, Trump is being encouraged by Republicans to emphasise a desire to refocus on pressing policy issues when attacking the investigation.

His tweets about Pelosi came moments after an initial tweet venting about the probe itself: "The Ukraine investigation is just as Corrupt and Fake as all of the other garbage that went on before it," he wrote.