Hutchinson Calls for Federal Law Enforcement Reform in Hunt for 2024 Nomination

July 18, 2023 by Carter Schaffer
Hutchinson Calls for Federal Law Enforcement Reform in Hunt for 2024 Nomination

WASHINGTON — Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is running for the Republican nomination for president, revealed the first plank of his platform at the National Press Club on Monday afternoon — federal law enforcement reform.

During an hourlong talk in the NPC’s main ballroom, Hutchinson said there are four principles behind his plan: the rule of law is fundamental to America’s democracy; federal agents fight the battle for public safety and America’s security; defunding the FBI is off the table; and all reforms must begin with accountability at their core.

The presidential hopeful then went on to lay out an eight-point reform plan, the first element of which is eliminating drug enforcement responsibilities from the FBI, instead letting the Drug Enforcement Administration lead the mission.

“It would allow them, [the FBI], to continue to concentrate on their counterterrorism mission, their violent crime initiatives, and be more focused as an agency,” Hutchinson said.

Part of Hutchinson’s FBI transparency and accountability element includes more transparency of social media shadow bans.

“If you’re looking at a government agency that goes to the bank and says, ‘You need to look at this account and perhaps you ought to close it out because we have information on them,’ that’s a property interest,” Hutchinson said on Monday.

“I would suggest that transparency would be to report that type of conduct of shadow banning to congressional committees and to the congressional advisory board that would be set up under my plan,” he added.

Hutchinson started his political career in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 to 2001, until he was appointed administrator to the DEA by President George W. Bush.

A critic of Donald Trump, Hutchinson said he believes the former president did a lot of damage to federal law enforcement agencies, particularly the Department of Justice and the FBI.

“He has undermined their credibility in the eyes of the public,” Hutchinson said. “He has continued his victimization and it has harmed our support for law enforcement and the confidence that Americans need to have in the criminal justice system.”

The FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and Hutchinson’s plan would reassign administrative support offices within the FBI to be managed by the DOJ, including the general counsel, public affairs and legislative affairs.

Hutchinson said he wants the DOJ more intertwined with the FBI, with the FBI reporting up to the DOJ for transparency and clarity and having supervision over the attorney general.

When asked about how his plan will create public trust with the FBI, Hutchinson cited his third reform element, saying recording subject and witness interviews will build confidence in it and will be a morale boost to the agency. However, Hutchinson said it is not always necessary for FBI agents to wear body cameras.

Hutchinson said he wanted a new leadership team to help carry out his reform policies that are “100% committed to not the traditional way of doing things.” He also said the president needs to be engaged with the attorney general to set DOJ priorities.

Hutchinson said he does not want to promise pardons as a part of his campaign journey, including any for Trump. He said he used it to accomplish “mercy in some cases, justice in other cases and giving people a fresh start in other instances” as the governor of Arkansas.

In December 2022, Hutchinson announced he intended to grant 42 pardons in Arkansas before his term ended the following January. Almost every pardon had “this notice is issued based on the dates of conviction … the fact that all terms of the applicant’s sentence have been completed and there have been no further criminal-law violations” for its reasoning.

Hutchinson said he’s at about 5,000 donors in a Hugh Hewitt interview on July 6, short of the 40,000 required minimum to join the debate stage in August. To hit the threshold, Hutchinson said he has a plan in place and is soliciting previous campaign volunteers to help with his effort.

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