If Trump Was Serious About Police Reform, He Would Have Addressed Qualified Immunity

The legal doctrine makes it considerably harder to hold cops accountable. Trump refused to address it.


"I have done more for the African-American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln," said President Donald Trump on Thursday evening as he addressed an audience member during his NBC town hall. The question asked of him: What would he do for people of color who are made anxious by reports of police brutality, especially in the wake of George Floyd's death?

The president invoked a bill put forth by Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.) as evidence of his openness to police reform and cited Democrats' refusal to pass it as proof that he is the pro-criminal justice leader the country needs.

But Scott's bill was largely toothless; it promised to create a national database of incidents where cops killed or severely injured someone, and it encouraged departments to ban chokeholds by dangling federal grants as incentive. Notably, it failed to address qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that makes it considerably more difficult to sue police officers when they violate someone's civil rights.

As I've written previously:

The legal doctrine has protected two cops who allegedly stole $225,000 while executing a search warrant; a sheriff's deputy who shot a 10-year-old boy while aiming at the child's non-threatening dog; prison guards who forced a naked inmate to sleep in cells filled with raw sewage and "massive amounts" of human feces; two cops who assaulted and arrested a man for the crime of standing outside of his own house; two officers who sicced a police dog on a surrendered suspect. That list is not exhaustive.

Earlier this summer, Trump said he would not consider any changes to qualified immunity. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called it a "non-starter" for the administration. Attorney General William Barr claimed it would result in police "pulling back." And Scott characterized qualified immunity reform as a "poison pill," an unsurprising declaration when considering the president promised to reject legislation with any such provisions.

Trump's demurral on qualified immunity makes sense from a strategic standpoint; police unions vehemently oppose any changes to the doctrine. And the president has successfully courted the law enforcement lobby's endorsement. (Police unions, like teachers unions, exist to protect employees at the expense of the public.)

But though qualified immunity reform is controversial among the unions, it is not controversial among the American public. A majority of people in the U.S. oppose the doctrine, and yet Congress has not moved accordingly to address the needs of their constituents.

That wasn't necessarily for lack of trying. Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) introduced tripartisan legislation to eliminate qualified immunity for all public officials; it doesn't just protect cops, but also prison guards, college administrations, and other potentially corrupt civil servants. Sen. Mike Braun (R–Ind.) unveiled legislation that would have radically restricted the doctrine. Neither received a vote.

NEXT: No, Joe Biden, Cops Can't Just Shoot People in the Leg

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  1. So Trump gets called out, and Biden gets cotton balls thrown at him.

    Yeah, real stuff that “major” network newz crap.

    Pull their licenses, and put their execs on trial. Same for social media.

    1. Yeah, fuck the First Amendment, right?

      1. Doesn’t necessarily have to be government doing it…

        1. Nardz: Online mobs of SJWs engaging in cancel culture will be the end of the Republic.

          Also Nardz: If the government won’t do it, citizen vigilantes should act as judge, jury, and executioner when the media shows bias.

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          2. Cancel culture is fascist, a citizen rebellion against oligarchs is not.

        2. At this point an angry mob may be preferable. Fuck neo-corporatism.

    2. Someone get a tissue for the snowflake here.

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  2. Goddammit, we keep telling you, if you hold cops personally responsible for gross civil rights abuses, what incentive are they going to have to continue to commit gross civil rights abuses? It’s hard enough being a cop without having to remember all the shit you’re not allowed to do to people who aren’t you.

  3. Totally deserves it. CSPAN Suspends Steve Scully

    1. He deserved to be fired for the subsequent stupid coverup, not given a time out.

  4. I think the audience questions for Trump were pretty reasonable. I also think Savannah Guthrie should get a smack across the head.

    1. Unicorn, I also listened (not watched) the debate. My beloved wife watched. Some thoughts.

      – It took Guthrie 20 minutes to let the audience ask any questions. I thought POTUS Trump had to debate Guthrie. That is not the role of the moderator.

      – Now my wife, who is a hard-core supporter of POTUS Trump, thought Guthrie did a good job. She also thought POTUS Trump did a good job debating her.

      – The lady who told The Donald he had a nice smile changed the entire dynamic with her one comment. It was like she defused The Donald. Give her a medal.

      If anything, this showed the American public the absolute animus and bias of the MSM against POTUS Trump, and his deplorables voters. That alone is important.

  5. Trump denounced white supremacy at least 3 times tonight…
    Based on your previous assertions, shouldn’t that be a huge story?

    Also, what did Biden have to say about his family’s foreign dealings?

    1. He denounced Hunter Biden 3 times. Or he would have, if Kamala’s campaign managers told him to.

    2. “Trump denounced white supremacy at least 3 times tonight…”

      Why not four times? I’m getting real tired of Trump getting away with blowing these fucking dog whistles.

      1. Not OBL worthy, but I’ll give it a +1.

        1. It was pretty good for a beginner.

      2. “denounced white supremacy at least 3 times tonight”

        Trump is the worst Hitler ever. I mean he let his kids and grandkids be Jewish for fucks sake.
        Absolutely terrible hitlering.

  6. Ol’ Savannah was screamin’ “GRAB ME BY THE PUSSY”! halfway through the Trump town hall. It was a masterwork by a very stable genius. Even the NBC-selected shills are voting MAGA after that one. 4_MORE_YEARS_!!!

    1. And Trump responded by saying “hey, maybe 20 years ago…”

  7. If Trump wins, it may be because of his pro-law and order credentials.

  8. Every problem in the world is easy and the only reason they’re not all solved in 5 minutes is because Orange Man Bad doesn’t care.

    Seriously, grow up.

    Lawsuits against police officers aren’t the only thing that matters. Qualified immunity needs to be fixed, but that won’t reform policing by itself.

    1. Binion always goes easy on the real culprits, the mayors and councilpersons.

    2. “Every problem in the world is easy and the only reason they’re not all solved in 5 minutes is because Orange Man Bad doesn’t care.”

      Orange Man Bad doesn’t care?!?! How DARE you question Orange Man Bad’s good motives!!! They are ALWAYS good!

      Orange Man bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He Make America Great Again!

      We KNOW He can Make America Great Again, because, as a bad-ass businessman, He Made Himself and His Family Great Again! He Pussy Grabber in Chief!

      See The Atlantic article by using the below search-string in quotes:
      “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet” or this one…


      He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies, His illegal sub-human workers ripped off of pay on His building projects, and His “students” in His fake Get-Rich-like-Me realty schools, and so on. So, He has a GREAT record of ripping others off! So SURELY He can rip off other nations, other ethnic groups, etc., in trade wars and border wars, for the benefit of ALL of us!!!

      All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

      Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! The Donald has figured out that all of the un-Americans are SOOO stupid, that we can pussy-grab them all day, every day, and they will NEVER think of pussy-grabbing us right back!

      Orange Man Bad-Ass Pussy-Grabber all right!

      We CAN grab all the pussy, all the time, and NONE will be smart enough to EVER grab our pussies right back!

      These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can pussy-grab all of the people some of the time, and you can pussy-grab some of the people all of the time, but you cannot pussy-grab all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will pussy-grab you right back!

      1. Only imbeciles think Trump said he grabbed anyone’s pussy.
        He said women, angling for men, who have power and fame, would let them do anything, even grab their pussy.
        Imbecile’s gotta be imbeciles.

        1. His pussy-grabbing didn’t work well with the Chinese. Surprise, surprise, the Chinese figured out how to pussy-grab the USA right back, with retaliatory trade barriers! So then Trump had to turn the USA farmers far more into welfare farmers, then they already were. And he never got the Mexicans to pay for his Big Beautiful walls, either!

          How’s that METAPHORICAL pussy-grabbing working for ya?!?!

  9. If only there were some legislative body, or Court which could address this issue.

  10. Typical of Binion to give short shrift to Senator Scott’s bill. Clearly, Binion is a racist and needs to be summarily dismissed because he did not like the bill proposed by a black Senator.

    I don’t actually believe that {Binion is a racist}, but that is the kind of childlike logic Binion employs in his writing.

    Binion, you dolt…one has to start somewhere. Senator Scott’s bill died because of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

  11. All you have to do is ask- does it affect Trump? If so, he’ll spin it so it better helps him.

    If not? He doesn’t give a flying fuck.

    This is the latter.

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  13. . . . If Trump Was Serious About Police Reform, He Would Have Addressed Qualified Immunity . . .

    Well if Trump IS going to do something about police reforms it appears that he will have an allie in Amy Barrett.

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  15. “But Scott’s bill was largely toothless”

    Why then did Schumer and all other Senate Dems refuse to support it?

  16. The question of qualified immunity would better have been put to ACB, since it’s a court-made doctrine. (Maybe it was – I have not followed the hearing very closely.) Anyway i get tired of interlocutors demanding politicians denounce this and that and the other. Rather they should come to a common understanding of what it is they are discussing (I doubt that there is a single accepted uderstanding of either “race” or “white supremacy” for instance) and then talk about why the thing is wonderful, terrible or in between.

    Ain’t gonna happen though. Not good TV.

  17. If you were serious about Qualified Immunity you should have mentioned the role of the Supreme Court on this.

  18. Another point in question regarding the re-election of President Trump. While on the subject of questions for politicians, exactly where does the former Vice President stand on this matter. Has he given the body politic the benefit of his thinking on this Qualified Immunity business?

  19. Billy,
    It is Congress who needs to do something, not Trump.
    Take a freaking Civics class, oh wait, they don’t teach that anymore.

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