President Trump likened his potential impeachment Friday to abuses in the criminal justice system against minorities, telling an audience at a historically black college in South Carolina that injustice also occurs “in some pretty high places.”
“We’ll never let up on our efforts to ensure that our justice system is fair for every single American, and I have my own experience,” the president said. “You see what’s going on with the ‘witch hunt.’ It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our country — no crimes. It’s an investigation in search of a crime.”
He said his administration is “working to put an end, for everybody, to horrible injustice and horrible practices that we’ve seen, not only here.”
“It’s in some pretty high places,” the president said. “Justice, fairness and due process are core tenets of our democracy, these are timeless principles I will faithfully uphold as president. They’re principles Republicans stand for, and historically Democrats have stood for in the past. They used to stand for them.”
The president has criticized House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry for denying him the right to representation in the closed room at the Capitol where lawmakers are questioning witnesses.
Mr. Trump told the crowd in South Carolina, “I will always fight against abuses of power from any source, and I will always champion the right to due process, the right to a fair trial. the right to good legal representation, for every American, regardless of race, background, position.”
The president visited the forum at Benedict College in Columbia to tout his administration’s achievements in criminal justice reform. He cited this year’s First Step Act as a milestone that has enabled the release of thousands of non-violent prisoners who were languishing in jail on lengthy sentences, and he shared the stage with three black former prisoners whom he pardoned or who gained their release through the new law.
Mr. Trump acknowledged that criminal justice reform “was not a theme of my campaign initially.” He said he listened to faith leaders, political leaders and his son-in-law, adviser Jared Kushner, whose father served a federal prison term for tax evasion and other charges.
“They all came to see me, to ask me to fight on behalf of this forgotten community,” Mr. Trump said. “I knew criminal justice reform was not about politics. To this day, I’m not sure that what I did was a popular thing or an unpopular thing, but I know it was the right thing to do.”
Mr. Trump also used the trip to appeal for black voters’ support in 2020, saying the Democratic Party has abandoned them. He pointed to historic low levels of black unemployment and black poverty under his administration.
“The Democratic policies have let African-Americans down and taken them for granted,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve had so many people with empty political rhetoric. For over 100 years, it’s been all talk by a certain group of politicians, and no action. And I promise you that Republicans will never, ever do that.”
He said of his administration, “We’re acting, not talking.”
“We’re going to keep fighting for you and we’re fighting hard and we’re really having an impact,” he said. “And you’re having an impact on elections now.”
There were some chants of “four more years” in the audience, which was a mixture of black and white attendees.
The president said Washington has squandered money in recent decades on foreign wars, instead of spending it on black communities.
“Our leaders spent $8 trillion dollars on wars in the Middle East, but they allowed our great cities to fall into tragic decay and disrepair,” Mr. Trump said. “For the cost of one year of war in the Middle East, we could have given scholarships to every child at every inner city school in America and had tremendous numbers of dollars left over.”
He added, “Politicians drained America’s wealth policing ancient tribal conflicts overseas, while leaving generations of African-American children trapped in failing government schools and in failing inner cities.”
“Many politicians in Congress fight harder for illegal immigrants than they do for United States’ citizens,” he said. “Under this administration, the great betrayal of the American worker is over.”