President Donald Trump will attend a criminal justice forum in South Carolina next week along with several of his 2020 Democratic challengers, the White House confirmed to CNN.
The 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum is also expected to be attended by former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — all of whom have confirmed their attendance.
Trump will speak on Oct. 25, while the Democrats are slated to speak at various times throughout the day on Oct. 26 and 27, according to the event schedule.
The event which is billed as a “bipartisan forum of presidential candidates exclusively focused on criminal justice reform as it affects the Black community,” will feature the first-ever “HBCU Straw Poll,” according to the news release, in which “all students and alumni of the eight HBCUs in South Carolina will vote online for the presidential candidate that best addresses their concerns on all issues facing African-Americans, not solely limited to criminal justice reform.”
The forum will be held at the historically black Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.
Last month, Trump announced that his administration would lift a ban on federal funding for faith-based historically black colleges and universities, hailing his administration’s work advancing HBCUs. At that time, the President said the “nation owes a profound and enduring debt of gratitude to its HBCUs,” later adding, “You’ve seen this administration’s commitment — bigger and better and stronger than any previous administration by far.”
Trump has also previously cast himself as the best leader for African Americans, despite securing only 8% of the black vote in 2016 and frequently stoking racial tensions.
The forum will give him the opportunity to discuss the First Step Act, bipartisan criminal justice legislation that was enacted into law last year and includes measures that have allowed thousands of federal inmates to leave prison earlier than they otherwise would have, eases some mandatory minimum sentences and gives judges more leeway in sentencing, among other things.
This will be Trump’s fourth trip to South Carolina as President. His last visit came in June 2018, when he held a rally in West Columbia to encourage Republicans to vote for Gov. Henry McMaster, who was in a runoff at the time.
This is not Benedict’s first time hosting a sitting president. Barack Obama spoke at the school in March 2015 on his first trip to the state as President.