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Krauthammer: Justice Department clemency initiative is 'lawlessness'

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Wednesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that a new Department of Justice plan to offer clemency to thousands of nonviolent federal inmates is “lawlessness” on the part of the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole unveiled the plan offering a path to release for potentially thousands of federal inmates -- most jailed on drug charges -- provided they meet a specific set of criteria. Among the steps: the offenders must have been convicted of a nonviolent crime with no links to organized crime and have served at least 10 years of their sentence with good conduct. The applicant must also be someone subject to a “substantially lower sentence” for the crime under current federal law.

Proponents argue the move puts the current prison population more in line with current sentencing guidelines, and helps address the problem of overcrowding; there are currently 216,000 individuals incarcerated in federal facilities across the country.

Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor, said that it’s not so much the plan that’s problematic, but the Obama administration's pattern of behavior regarding many policy changes. 

“If it were just this alone, you would say yes. On the merits it's not a bad idea, there was over-sentencing in the past," he said. "But we know what he's done with immigration reform. ...Legislation comes from Congress, it doesn't come from the White House. Why can't the president obey the Constitution, execute the laws faithfully, and let Congress change them? Which is what he ought to be doing.”

Krauthammer added that while those who apply for clemency meet the standards put before them, it’s important to take into account the details of their conviction as well. “There is one thing we ought to consider: many of these people, many who end up with sentences like these, have plea bargained, so they really should've gotten much tougher stuff.”

“They could have been a dealer but in order to get a prosecution they would get an admission that the person either used or was small time or wasn't involved in a gang," Krauthammer continued. "So you've got people who may be pretty bad apples in this crowd, that you want to be extremely careful about releasing. Yes, some of them were over-sentenced, but I hope this is not going to be a mass clemency done for political reasons and for show reasons.”