White House says reducing immunity for cops who violate civil rights is non-starter

National News

FILE – In this June 1, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Less than five months before voters will decide his fate, Trump is confronting a vastly different political reality than he once envisioned. The president, West Wing advisers and campaign aides have grown increasingly concerned about his reelection chances as they’ve watched Trump’s standing take a pummeling first on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and now during a nationwide wave of protests against racial injustice. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The White House isn’t saying what kind of policing reforms President Trump will support at this point, but there is at least one non-starter — reducing immunity for police who violate civil rights. 

The doctrine of qualified immunity largely shields government officials, including police officers, from liability for conduct on the job unless they violate “clearly established” constitutional rights. Ending it would make it easier for individuals to hold police accountable. House Democrats and independent Representative Justin Amash have introduced a bill that would end the doctrine. And meanwhile, the Supreme Court is considering reviewing the constitutionality of qualified immunity. 

Following nearly two weeks of civil unrest throughout the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president is “talking through a number of proposals” but declined to mention any specific measure, except for the president’s opposition to ending qualified immunity. 

McEnany was asked during a White House briefing Monday whether the president supports any of the policing reform proposals put forward by Democrats. The bill, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, was announced in a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and other congressional Democrats on Monday morning. The legislation is 136 pages, and includes reforms to make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct in civil court.

“He hasn’t reviewed it yet. He’s looking at a number of proposals,” McEnany said. “But there are some non-starters in there, I would say, particularly on the immunity issue. You had AG Barr saying this weekend he was asked about reduced immunity and he said, ‘I don’t think we need to reduce immunity to go after the bad cops because that would result certainly in police pulling back,’ which is not advisable.”

Barr made the comments on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“I don’t think you need to reduce immunity to- to go after the bad cops, because that would result certainly in police pulling back,” Barr told moderator Margaret Brennan. “It’s, you know, policing is the toughest job in the country. And I — and I frankly think that we have — generally, the vast, overwhelming majority of police are good people. They’re civic-minded people who believe in serving the public. They do so bravely. They do so righteously.”

It’s unclear when the White House will unveil any proposals on addressing injustices within U.S. law enforcement. 

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