US president Donald Trump recently received the Bipartisan Justice award for his work toward the passage of a criminal justice reform bill.

This is a bit surprising in several respects. The organization that gives out the award, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, is 50% Democratic, and Donald Trump's approval rating among Democrats is around 5%, outweighing his similarly party-line approval of 87% among Republicans. Further, it's explicitly composed of 20 black Democrats and 20 black Republicans, and Trump's approval rating among black voters is also low. The award is also generally given to someone who has demonstrated bipartisanship, which Trump is generally not perceived as emphasizing. Further, while Trump's signature would be necessary for basically any reform bill, various other candidates in the House and Senate with much longer histories of advocating criminal justice reform, and fewer controversies around their attitudes toward black Americans, might seem like more obvious options.

Has the organization issued any public statements explaining in more depth their reasoning for granting the award to President Trump?

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    It's not even on their website yet. Might want to give them a little time. Likely answer: Trump really did take the lead on this one, and forced McConnell to allow a vote on it. Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 8:28
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    Considering the whole point of the award is to get around the idea that everything must be seen through a party-political lense, your question reads as 'why weren't they acting as hypocrites'. Presumably the answer is 'because they aren't'.
    – user19831
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 19:30
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    @Displayname There is more to a common perception that Trump is partisan than what party he's in Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 19:40
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit part of the q makes it explicitly about parties, but you are correct. However the underlying theme of getting people who disagree with each other to work together on what they do agree in common is closely relevent.
    – user19831
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 20:05
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    @LightnessRaces - Indeed, Trump's lack of bipartisanship has something behind it. I debated putting in some of Trump's comments about "loser democrats," "angry democrats," and "do nothing democrats," as well as how many bipartisan or Democrat-proposed bills he has signed compared to the equivalent for other presidents, but I thought that would be too tendentious.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


Like Obama's Nobel Prize, this is a carrot. It was a bipartisan bill he signed, and by rewarding that as a good and popular thing worth celebrating, they hope to have a moderating influence. Trump like awards (who doesn't, really?), so he's likely to talk about it down the line. In short; it gives them a chance to appear magnanimous, possibly encouraging the same.

It's also a way to bring attention to the organization/award to people who might not be familiar with their work; give it to the most famous guy possible at the time. This raises their profile and potentially increases the attention-grabbing value of later awards.

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    While I have a feeling that you could be right (after all, the very reason of awards is to reward behavior that you like), do you have any source supporting the claim? Of course it is unlikely that the Bipartisan Justice Center would publicly declare this to be the motive even if it were true, but some deeper analysis (for example checking the official motive and comparing it to Trump's actions, or comparing with previous editions of the award) would help the answer.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 9:40
  • I agree with SJuan76. Although I think that this is the only plausible explanation, is there any evidence you can adduce?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 17:24
  • A Nobel prize is a couple categories heavier than a Bipartisan Justice award though.
    – Mast
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 20:18
  • Could you add a source for this answer? The question asks "What was the stated reason?". This answer is only speculation.
    – user6633
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 12:51
  • Absent an official statement, this is a best-effort reasoned explanation. I will update if something surfaces, but I would also expect any public statements to be formulaic and positional, rather than internally explanatory.
    – dandavis
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 16:21

What was the stated reason for giving Trump this award?

Trump speaks at HBCU Benedict College as students are asked to stay in dorms, Oct. 25, 2019.

Trump was honored for leadership in the passage of the First Step Act, which expands opportunities for elderly inmates to get released, increases the amount of good-time credit inmates can receive and has provisions to help inmates transition back into society.

Has the organization issued any public statements explaining in more depth their reasoning for granting the award to President Trump?

So far, only was was posted on Facebook.

20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, October 25 at 4:13 PM.

Today at @the2020club_ Symposium, the 2020 Bipartisan Justice Center presented President @realDonaldTrump with the 2019 Bipartisan Justice Award for his leadership in the passage of the historic First Step Act.

Other public statements have been made in support of President Trump's actions for criminal justice reform.

This Facebook post was shared the same day as the executive order, March 7, 2018: 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center.

“The executive order signals how this administration values access to meaningful employment, and understands how empowerment to achieve after payment of debt to society benefits individuals, their families and our nation’s economy,” says Rufus Montgomery 20/20 Co-Chairman.

20/20 Leader and State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-MO) added “We’re proud to stand with President Trump on the right side of criminal justice reform; problems with reentry have plagued communities across our country for years.”

Additional sources

Axios reports Trump launches council for prison reform and crime prevention, Mar 7, 2018.

President Trump on Wednesday launched, by executive order, the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry. The president enacted the council with the aim of reducing crime while looking for ways to "provide those who have engaged in criminal activity with greater opportunities to lead productive lives."

The executive order text: Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry.

This is also interesting.

Trump to receive Bipartisan Justice Award during stop at SC black college
[Note that parts of the quote are in dispute, see comments.]

It also looks like the "organization" (20/20 Club) that gave him this award, was founded by a Trump Suppoter

20/20 is headed by Founder & Ashley D. Bell, Esq.

About - 2020 Club [Dead link]1

Ashley was appointed on February 21, 2018 by the White House to serve as Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration for Region IV; serving nine districts located in the 8 Southeastern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Regional Administrator Bell has oversight of over $5 billion in SBA-backed lending, the Counseling arm of the SBA, which counseled over 225,000 entrepreneurs last year in Region IV, and the contracting programs for small business, which account for over 23% of all federal contracts awarded.

Ashley Daniel Bell, Esq. | The U.S. Small Business Administration | SBA.gov

1 Ashley Bell (politician)

Bell is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, which purports to be the only nationwide coalition of Black Republicans, Democrats and Independents focused on criminal justice reform.

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    @Obie2.0 Then why the question?
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 18:01
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    Please reformulate to "one of the founders later joined the Trump administration" as the club was founded in March 2015 by 40 people, several months before Trump announced his Presidential bid in June 2015. One of those 40 later joined the Trump Administration. The formulation "A Trump supporter founded the club" is a phrase used to delegitimize the bipartisan nature of the 2020 club.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 2:14
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    What is with the quotes around "organization" in the quote? A group of 40 people may not be a large organization, but it's an organization nonetheless. Still, the fact that this group was founded relatively recently, and that its CEO seems to be a supporter of Trump, does, I suppose, open the possibility that it's a little less bipartisan than it might seem at first glance.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 3:05
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    @Sjoerd - If Bell is the CEO, he's a bit more than just another member. A randomly formed bipartisan organization is unlikely to lean toward a candidate, particularly Trump, but if Bell chose people closer to his own political views to help him form the organization, it's possible that that could lead a much more pro-Trump group than the ratio of Republicans and Democrats would suggest.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 3:09
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    @Obie2.0 - What is with the quotes around "organization" in the quote? In context, there was a claim the college gave the award. That claim was denied. The poster then emphasized it was an "organization" ... that gave him this award. Given the relative care the poster appeared to have used, I doubt they are scare quotes.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 12:07

Directly from the Bipartisan Justice Center:

Our mission is to empower local leaders to implement innovative and practical solutions to problems in the criminal justice system. We use an approach that is bipartisan and includes all relevant stakeholders.

He passed a bill that was both bipartisan, and a practical prison reformation.

The approval rating statistics you mentioned are not particularly relevant in this situation, since those numbers are mostly based on the media's narrative of Trump, rather than his policy decisions.

In reference to statement: Trump is generally not perceived as being bipartisan. Again, this isn't relevant because Trump's perception is based on narrative, and not on policy decisions.

Lastly, when you say "various other candidates in the House and Senate with much longer histories of advocating criminal justice reform, and fewer controversies around their attitudes toward black Americans, might seem like more obvious options" who are you referring to? No one obvious comes to my mind.

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    Well, I didn't want to say "Trump isn't bipartisan," although admittedly I don't think he is. But even if Trump's low approval ratings are based on mere perception, as is the idea that he is hostile to African-Americans or that he's highly partisan, the question would still be why the committee wasn't influenced by these perceptions.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 17:23
  • W.r.t. your last sentence, possible candidates would include Dan Sullivan (who introduced the bill); Cory Booker, Mike Lee, John Lewis, or Dick Durbin (who supported it and have long histories of working for criminal justice reform). One might even argue that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who were instrumental in lobbying Trump, might be more likely candidates due to a longer history of support for reform and less perception of hostility to black folks, although I don't know whether the award is limited to politicians.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 17:30
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    @Obie2.0 My assumption is that the committee is significantly less influenced by the media narrative (although they might still be), since they are all politicians, and likely understand how the game is played. When you say "Trump is hostile towards African-Americans", I'm not really sure what you are referring to? Trump constantly brags about how "He has the highest African-American approval rating among Republican Presidents in history". This is likely an exaggeration, or an outright lie, but I still don't see a reason to believe that he is hostile towards a specific race. Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 18:01
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    Also, I should probably point out that I'm only defending Trump relative to your position on him, which seems to be akin to the mainstream media's narrative. IMO, he is just another corrupt politician, and not this democracy ending nazi that the media makes him out to be. Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 18:05
  • I'm afraid I have to downvote this because it doesn't, in my mind, answer the question. This is just restating the premise, that a group claiming to be bypartisan gave trump an award. The question was why trump was the specific individual picked, it acknowledges that trump signed the law but the OP clearly wants more explanation then that; which you failed to give. This answer seems to spend it's time complaining about how the question was asked rather then actually answering it.
    – dsollen
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 19:05

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