‘But That’s What — What The Act Says’: Jonathan Swan Corners Rashida Tlaib Over Prison Bill That Would ‘Release Everyone’
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: House Oversight and Reform Committee member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) attends a hearing about the 2020 census in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill January 09, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony about 'hard-to-reach' communities and how the federal government could work to gather better census data from under-reported groups like Asian Americans, Native Americans, African Americans and recent immigrants. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Axios political reporter Jonathan Swan forced Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib into a corner during an interview, challenging her directly on her support for a prison reform bill that would “release everyone.”

Tlaib, appearing on an episode of “Axios on HBO,” initially seemed to be mocking anyone who claimed the measure would just let everyone go free, but Swan pushed back immediately, saying, “But that’s what — that’s what the act says.”

Swan pressed Tlaib on her support for a 2020 initiative aimed at reforming the criminal justice system and ultimately abolishing the federal prison system entirely.

“In 2020, you endorsed the BREATHE Act, which is a series of proposals to transform America’s criminal justice system and create, quote, ‘a roadmap for prison abolition.’ The BREATHE Act proposes emptying federal detention facilities within 10 years. To what extent have you wrestled with any potential downsides of releasing into society every single person who’s currently in a federal prison?” Swan asked.

Tlaib appeared to laugh off the question, saying, “I think everyone’s like, oh my God, we’re going to just release everybody.”

Swan immediately objected: “But that’s what — that’s what the act says.”

Tlaib pushed back, arguing that her support for the bill was based on the fact that so many who were mentally ill were being incarcerated rather than being treated.

“Yeah, but did you see how many people are mentally ill that are in prison right now?” she asked.

“But the act that you endorsed actually says release everyone,” Swan continued to press Tlaib on the issue, to which she replied that it would be 10 years before the federal prisons were actually abolished and those incarcerated would be released.

“Do you mean that you don’t actually support that? ‘Cause you used to endorse the bill,” Swan continued.

“No, I endorsed the BREATHE Act and looking at federal — the policies and how we incarcerate,” Tlaib replied.

She went on to say that she did not believe that rehabilitation was possible in all cases, but that she was focused on working to end mass incarceration.

Tlaib addressed several other issues during the interview, namely the Build Back Better Act — which passed the House on Friday — and the uphill battle it could face in the Senate.

Referring to unspecified members of her own party as “Corporate Dems” — and noting the simultaneous bipartisan opposition to the spending package — Tlaib worried aloud, “I know that they’ve been influenced and guided by folks that don’t have the best interests of the American people in mind, so I’m fearful. I’m fearful that those groups are going to guide this agenda … It’s going to be the people that are gonna continue to profit off of human suffering.”

Swan asked directly whether by “Corporate Dems” she meant Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Tlaib replied, “It’s those two, but I think there are some others… And so I can’t say it’s just those two. They seem to be leading the fight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if folks are hiding behind them.”

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