In the wake of the stunning passage through the Senate of the landmark prison reform bill known as the First Step Act, a number of people are taking victory laps, and that includes CNN commentator Van Jones, who is touting one name in particular for getting the bill pushed in front of Donald Trump.
“If Kim Kardashian had not gone to the White House and talked to Donald Trump, we would not have passed this bill,” Jones told TMZ on Wednesday. “We would not have 50,000 people fewer in federal prisons because of this bill, 100 percent of people who are locked up in the federal prisons can come home a little bit earlier if they stay out of trouble, 50 percent of them can come home a lot earlier if they work hard, 100 percent of women are not going to be shackled and mistreated.
“Why?” he added. “Because Kim Kardashian was willing to put her celebrity on the line for people she didn’t even know.”
The bill had been debated and worked on for years. While Kardashian’s celebrity helped Trump pay attention, and brought to his attention the plight of 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, it was still up in the air whether they could convince him to go along with the bill.
According to CNN, Jones – at the behest of Jared Kushner – along with Kardashian went to the White House in May to convince Trump of the benefits of releasing convicted felons who were serving overly harsh sentences. For every Alice Johnson, Trump brought up Willie Horton.
Yes. That Willie Horton. The convicted Massachusetts murderer and rapist who was the subject of a racist 1988 presidential campaign ad from George H.W. Bush attacking Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor at the time. Trump was worried that he could suffer his own Willie Horton moment in 2020 if he backed the bill.
“He was afraid,” Jones said. “He was concerned someone would get out, hurt someone and that would be the end of his political career.”
The Senate passed the First Step Act by an 87-12 vote, a rarity in the extremely divided federal government. Van – who admitted that meeting Trump and Kushner has led to him being called an “Uncle Tom” – says that all of this is thanks to Kim.
“We just kind of circled back, Van and I, in talking to the President to explain: But you have Alice now, and Alice is your legacy,” Kardashian told CNN. “She really opened up his heart and his eyes.”