Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris plans to boycott an upcoming South Carolina criminal justice forum that she was slated to attend after the organizers honored President Trump Friday with an award for his work on criminal justice reform.
Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award from the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center for his legislative strides on the First Step Act, which grants early release to thousands of nonviolent offenders who are currently serving time in federal prisons.
Harris herself was a supporter of the legislation, which received bipartisan support before Trump signed it into law.
Harris, also a recipient of the award in 2016, took issue with the group’s decision and called Trump — who is facing an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats — “a lawless President.”
“Not only does he circumvent the laws of our country and the principles of our Constitution, but there is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice or in celebration of justice,” her campaign said in a statement.
She also decried that only a small minority of students at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, secured tickets for Saturday’s event because the majority of the seats will be filled by administration officials and Trump supporters.
“Today, 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 behavior that puts people’s lives at risk, and then learned all but  Benedict students are excluded from participating, I cannot in good faith be complicit in papering over his record,” Harris said.
“Instead, I’ll host students from all campuses, as well as the broader Columbia community, to come and discuss this critical issue that I’ve worked on for my entire career,” she added.
The California senator was among 10 Democrats expected to attend the forum but instead said she now plans to host her own criminal justice roundtable.
Harris has come under fire for her own record on criminal justice reform.
In her run for the White House, her campaign has consistently touted the progressive aspects of her career as district attorney and later attorney general of California, which include introducing a proposal for nationwide bail reform, as well as legalizing marijuana, which is a part of her comprehensive criminal justice reform agenda if she is elected president in 2020.
But her record as a San Francisco prosecutor has also been scrutinized, as detractors of her campaign point out that although she’s outwardly advocated for a ban to capital punishment, Harris has defended the death penalty in court.
She also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proven to be innocent and resisted the release of prisoners from California jails after the Supreme Court deemed that they were overcrowded, and were perpetuating cruel and unusual punishment against its prisoners.
As of mid-week, Harris was polling behind former Vice President Joe Biden, the top contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, by nearly 22 points, with only 5.3 percentage points, according to RealClear Politics.