Asa Hutchinson previews new plan to reform federal law enforcement if elected in 2024

The former governor faces challenges in the primary but says it's "wide open."

July 17, 2023, 1:32 PM

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday unveiled a federal law enforcement reform plan that he's calling "critically important" and overdue -- and a preview of legislation he would push if he is elected president in 2024.

"If there's anything that my life has represented, it is both my faith but it's also support for the rule of law," Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told "GMA3." "I've spent my private life, my public career, defending the rule of law and our justice system -- and it needs a correction. We haven't had a major reform in our federal law enforcement in over 20 years."

Hutchinson said his proposal is intended to help restore confidence in federal law enforcement by giving them more accountability -- by requiring agent interviews be recorded, for instance -- without undercutting the mission of public safety and protecting the nation.

The proposal includes eight reforms: transferring drug enforcement responsibilities from the FBI to the Drug Enforcement Administration; elevating the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties now under the FBI's general counsel to the FBI director's office; requiring the FBI to record agent interviews; reassigning administrative support offices within the FBI to the Department of Justice; creating a unified charter for federal law enforcement agencies; establishing a commission on the future of federal law enforcement; reforming intelligence collection under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and reaffirming the relationship between the president and attorney general.

Hutchinson is holding a press conference at 3 p.m. ET at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss the proposal.

"These will be some very bold reform proposals that are critical to make sure and our system works again, which is the envy of the world," he said on "GMA3."

Other Republicans in the 2024 race, led by former President Donald Trump, have been increasingly critical of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, claiming they are politicized -- a charge that top law enforcement officials have pushed back against.

"We've lost confidence in the federal law enforcement in some ways, and that confidence needs to be rebuilt. And that's the purpose of this reform," Hutchinson said Monday.

Monday's unveiling comes as he works to reach 40,000 unique donors to his campaign to qualify for the primary debate stage next month in Milwaukee. As of Friday, just before second-quarter filings were due, Hutchinson's campaign said he had received donations from 7,000 individuals -- meaning he has about a month to acquire more than 30,000 new donors.

"We're not there yet. We need a lot of help to get there, but it's really important," Hutchinson acknowledged on "GMA3." "Obviously, the voters are now starting to get tuned in with the Iowa caucus six months away. ... So this debate is a way to contrast the candidates between themselves and their ideas."

PHOTO: Republican presidential canditate Asa Hutchinson appeared on "GMA3" on July 17, 2023.
Republican presidential canditate Asa Hutchinson appeared on "GMA3" on July 17, 2023.
ABC News

Some of those places of "contrast" that Hutchinson highlighted were on border security and support for Ukraine. While some GOP candidates, like biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, have advocated for ending both birthright citizenship and U.S. support for military efforts in Ukraine -- arguing the latter is not as much of a priority as countering China -- Hutchinson said he offers true conservative policies, like a strong military and cutting federal spending.

"These are dramatic changes that I want to present, and that's why we want on that debate stage as well," he said Monday.

Hutchinson has been an outspoken critic of Trump for, as he claims, undermining the rule of law. (Trump denies all wrongdoing.)

He has called for the former president to drop out of the 2024 race as the various criminal investigations into Trump's actions have become "a distraction" to the campaign, he's said.

Still, Trump continues to hold a commanding lead among Republican voters, polling at an average of about 50% in an average of early national surveys, according to FiveThirtyEight. Hutchinson, by contrast, is polling around around 1%. Trump has also dismissed Hutchinson's own prospects.

Asked on Monday if the GOP has moved too far away from the more moderate Republican Party that Hutchinson sees himself as representing -- after, on Sunday, he was booed at one point and drowned out with chants of "Trump" while speaking at a Turning Point USA conference in Florida -- Hutchinson said he'll continue to make the case against Trump and called this "the most unpredictable election season that I've seen in my lifetime."

"First of all, it was a great event. There were thousands of young people there who were very well behaved. A few of the adults got out of hand, but it's really important, as you said, to go to these audiences [who] might be pro-Trump and make your case -- because the way to the nomination has to go through Donald Trump," he said. "You have to make your case against him. You have to contrast it and we're doing that every day. And over time, that's going to make a difference."

"The key is people want to win in 2024, and Donald Trump is not the path to victory," he added. "And so right now, it is wide open."

ABC News' John Klarl contributed to this report.