Juan Williams: Trump’s policies on race are more important than his rhetoric

President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE’s critics are so focused on criticizing his controversial statements that they are not devoting enough attention to policies that hurt racial minorities, Fox News pundit Juan Williams said Monday.

“People get locked in, what did he say, what didn’t he say. I think the policies that he is supporting are what’s key,” Williams said in an interview with Hill.TV’s show “Rising.”

The left-leaning Fox News contributor said he wants to increase public attention to Republican policies on race through his new book “What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?” the title of which is a reference to a pitch Trump made to black Americans as presidential candidate in 2016.

According to Williams, who is also a Hill columnist, voting laws are an area in which Trump's controversial statements distract public attention from policies that negatively affect racial minorities.

“After the 2016 race, he says ‘How could Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGillibrand announces exploratory committee to run for president on Colbert Former PepsiCo CEO being considered for World Bank chief post: report Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing MORE have beat me by 3 million votes in terms of the popular vote? This is the result of voter fraud.’ And so he creates a commission to look for voter fraud, brings in Kris Kobach from Kansas. But guess what? There is no voter fraud, the commission is disbanded,” Williams told hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton.

“But what has continued is that you see Republican-majority state legislatures that are closing polling places, limiting hours for voting, making voter ID requirements all the more strict. And that, again, plays into the policy that they don’t say anything,” he said.

Williams also said he believes Trump has inflamed racial tensions by having the federal government decline to enforce consent decrees designed to provide Department of Justice oversight to municipal law enforcement agencies. He also argued that Republicans are walking back promises to reduce penalties on non-violent drug offenders.

“Even in terms of something where you had strong Republican support which is criminal justice reform, trying to do something about high penalties for non-violent drug crimes in the country, Trump administration comes in and that’s going nowhere,” Williams said.

Last Thursday, Trump said he was going to re-prioritize administration efforts to modify sentencing laws and guidelines.

“There has to be a reform because it’s very unfair right now,” the president said. “It’s very unfair to African-Americans. It's very unfair to everybody. And it's also very costly.”

Some congressional Republicans have accused Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony AG pick Barr emphasizes independence from Trump Hillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news MORE of obstructing their attempts to reform sentencing laws.

“If he doesn’t, then he gets overruled by me,” Trump said.

Last Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Mellman: Why does the GOP persist? Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-Ky.) said he would allow a sentencing bill to come to a floor vote after the November elections, provided it had enough support to pass.

—Matthew Sheffield