Although the Republican party's conservative wing has typically reserved unbridled praise for former President Trump, potential suitors for the nomination in the 2024 presidential nomination are now seeking to distinguish themselves from him, Politico reports. One of the most direct attacks on Trump's record came in a speech by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) at the Reagan Presidential Library. Cotton called the First Step Act signed by Trump, which was designed to reform criminal sentencing and reduce the federal prison population, the "worst mistake" of his tenure.
Cotton said that "no piece of legislation did more to harm our status as the party of public safety than the the First Step Act " and that he "led the fight" against the bill's passage in 2018. He went on to say, “What I predicted then has come true many times over: Criminals released from prison under the First Step Act have committed many more heinous crimes. . . . Our party should reverse this and once again put hardened, career criminals where they belong — back behind bars.” Cotton also praised Trump and compared him to Ronald Reagan, but his criticism of the First Step Act is a telling indicator of Cotton's presidential ambitions and his stance on criminal justice issues and incarceration.