Kim Kardashian and Trump Will Meet at the White House Wednesday
After months of back-channel talks between Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner, the high priestess of reality television is coming to the White House. By late afternoon on Wednesday, Secret Service agents will wave Kardashian and her attorney through the southwest appointment gate to the West Wing, where they will meet Kushner to discuss prison reform before he walks with them to sit down with President Donald Trump, likely in the Oval Office, along with White House counsel. According to a person familiar with the meeting, Kardashian plans to ask Trump to pardon a woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. (White House staffers have joked about who will get to accompany her to the West Wing, and what they should wear for the occasion. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
Prison reform is an issue near and dear to Kushner, whose father, Charles, spent more than a year in a federal prison camp in 2005 and 2006 on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering. The experience left an indelible mark on the young Kushner who, for years, carried a wallet his father made for him in prison; when he joined the White House as senior adviser, he vowed to help improve the system that his father had come through. And so, while other initiatives in his once-dizzying portfolio have fallen by the wayside, Kushner has made significant progress in getting Republican lawmakers on board with the effort, bringing law enforcement officials and Evangelical leaders to the White House, taking meetings on Capitol Hill, and hosting dinner parties with key Washington power players at the home he shares with his wife, Ivanka Trump. He pushed Congress to support a bipartisan bill known as the First Step Act, which aims to better prepare inmates to re-enter society by incentivizing participation in job-training and drug-treatment programs, and which would also give nonviolent offenders more options to serve the ends of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement. (Kushner's father left prison 10 months early, and finished his two-year sentence at a halfway house in Newark, New Jersey.)
'If we can start showing that we can make the prisons more purposeful and more effective at lowering the recidivism rate over time, that may help the people who are trying to make the argument for sentencing reform,' Kushner said at an event in the East Room earlier this month. President Trump promised: 'Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it.' Last week, the House passed the First Step Act in a 360-59 vote.
Kardashian, a more recent prison reform evangelist, appears to be approaching the White House meeting with equal seriousness. She will not be bringing the camera crew for her reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, nor will she bring a publicist or her sisters, according to the person familiar with the situation. (Her husband, Kanye West, who recently tweeted a photo of his red Make America Great Again hat, will not be present either, though there have been talks about him making a White House appearance of his own at a later, to-be-determined date.) Instead, Kardashian hopes to make a legal argument to President Trump for why he should pardon Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old great-grandmother serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. More than 21 years after Johnson went to prison, Kardashian came across Johnson's story on Twitter earlier this year and reached out to Ivanka, who connected her to Kushner, according to the source. In an interview earlier this month, Kardashian said that, if given the opportunity, she would 'explain to [Trump] that, just like everybody else, we can make choices in our lives that we're not proud of and that we don't think through all the way.'
Kardashian's plea, and Kushner's push for reform, are at odds with the Trump administration's own policies. In one of his first moves as attorney general, Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo that increased leniency for low-level drug offenders, instructing federal prosecutors to bring punitive charges that could trigger precisely the sort of tough mandatory sentencing that condemned Johnson to life without parole. The president, however, has proven amenable to personal entreaties'especially when celebrities are involved. Last week, Trump hosted Sylvester Stallone, Lennox Lewis, and Deontay Wilder in the Oval Office, as they asked him to pardon Jack Johnson, the legendary boxer who, in 1913, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for the purpose of prostitution or any other 'immoral' reason. Johnson, who was widely believed to be convicted because he was black, served a year in prison. After Trump agreed to pardon Johnson, he said in a statement that he was pleased to be able to 'correct a wrong that occurred in our history,' before throwing in a jab to his predecessor. 'They thought it was going to be signed in the last administration, and that didn't happen.'
The Kushner-Kardashian summit marks something of a turning point for the First Son-in-Law. It will be Kushner's first major act since he was granted a permanent, top-level security clearance last week, after more than a year of negative headlines about why his clearance had been delayed and then downgraded. Among White House tea-leaf readers, the news was received as evidence that perhaps Kushner's legal exposure in Robert Mueller's investigation might not be as severe as many had believed it to be, and gave credence to the idea that his standing in the West Wing might be somewhat restored. Those in Ivanka and Kushner's social orbit in New York joked with each other about how much money they stood to lose on various bets they had made over when Kushner would be indicted by Mueller.....
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