Kim Kardashian visits Trump to talk prison reform
Jonathan Lemire And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018 4:12PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2018 7:17PM EDT
WASHINGTON - Reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who successfully pushed President Donald Trump to grant a pardon for a drug offender earlier this year, returned to the White House on Wednesday for a meeting with senior aides as part of the administration's efforts on criminal justice reform.
Kardashian West, who may have felt right at home with the drama-infused atmosphere in the West Wing as it grapples with the fallout from Bob Woodward's new book, participated in a listening session on clemency and prison reform with several staffers, including the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“The discussion is mainly focused on ways to improve that process to ensure deserving cases receive a fair review,” according to Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
Among the others in attendance were CNN commentator Van Jones, Shon Hopwood, a lawyer who served time in prison for bank robbery and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, who has been instrumental in steering Trump's Supreme Court picks, including Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearings have begun on Capitol Hill.
But the headliner was Kardashian West, who last visited the White House three months ago to press for a pardon for 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson. At the time, the reality star, dressed in black, posed for an instantly iconic - and seemingly sombre - photo with Trump in the Oval Office, though there were no plans for her to meet with the president on Wednesday.
One week after Kardashian West's visit, Trump granted Johnson clemency, freeing her from prison after a more than two-decade stint on drug charges.
“When I looked at Alice, I said we can't just stop with one person. We have to change the laws,” Kardashian West said in a statement released by #cut50, a group that looks to reduce incarceration time.
The pardon for Johnson was one of several instances where the president has used his constitutional power to pardon federal crimes. Trump in May pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza and suggested he was considering a commutation for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a pardon for lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. He has not yet acted on either front.
“We are working to build support for prison reform, sentencing reform, and fair treatment of people coming home from prison,” said Van Jones. “When you have prominent people like Kim helping voiceless people behind bars - like Chris Young who she is advocating for today - that's incredibly powerful.”
Kardashian West on Tuesday told “Wrongful Conviction” podcast host Jason Flom that she's advocating for Young, who was sentenced to life without parole after being arrested for marijuana and cocaine possession.
“It's so unfair. He's 30 years old. He's been in for almost 10 years,” she said.
Kardashian West later tweeted an image from the meeting, writing “It started with Ms. Alice, but looking at her and seeing the faces and learning the stories of the men and women I've met inside prisons I knew I couldn't stop at just one. It's time for REAL systemic change”
Young was one of 32 people charged by federal prosecutors in a drug trafficking investigation. Prosecutors say he was buying cocaine or crack from a major drug supplier at a gas station in December 2010. He was convicted in 2013 on drug charges and also pleaded guilty to being a felon with a gun.
Young, who was 26 at the time, received a life sentence in August 2014 from then-U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, who has since left the bench and has very publicly opposed the mandatory minimum sentencing he had to hand down.
“What I was required to do that day was cruel and did not make us safer,” Sharp tweeted in June.
Young previously had been arrested at both 18 and 19 on both felony and misdemeanour drug possessions charges. For those two arrests combined, he had been slated to serve 14 years through community corrections.
Kushner has added prison reform to his broad portfolio, though others in the administration - namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions - support the toughest possible sentences for drug and other convictions. The president's son-in-law has had an interest in prison reform since his own father, Charles Kushner, was incarcerated for 14 months after being convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.
TMZ first reported Kardashian West's White House visit Wednesday.