December 16, 2018

PAUL BEDARD: Jared Kushner ‘indispensable’ on prison reform, model for future Trump fights.

Top Trump adviser Jared Kushner is winning bipartisan praise for driving a 20-year effort to reform prison sentencing and criminal justice to the finish line and ignoring repeated declarations that it was dead right up to last week.

Liberal and conservative advocates for justice reform are giving Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, credit for cobbling together — despite his inexperience in Washington and with politics — an unlikely coalition that has the package on the verge of Senate passage.

“Jared has been indispensable to this process in navigating through a complex set of relationships and issues, which have been a part of getting us to where we are today and holding together a delicate coalition which has undergirded this effort,” praised Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Sen. Rand Paul said, “Having worked on criminal justice reform in the Senate for the past six years, I was pleased to see President Trump’s White House fully engaged in bringing this important issue to the forefront. This would not have happened without Jared’s personal involvement, interest and perseverance. Jared and I both share a more ambitious criminal justice reform vision, but this was the first step, and we look forward to building onto it in the next Congress.”

And Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, one of the groups in the fight the longest, said, “It’s a big win for Jared. For anybody who thought, ‘That’s the New Yorker, out-of-town guy,’ he managed this effort through the House and the Senate.”

According to several officials, Kushner repeatedly dismissed claims that the effort was dead and instead worked with key lawmakers, interest groups, pastors and even celebrities like Kim Kardashian to keep the effort alive and make changes to the “First Step Act” to reduce opposition.

As it faced delay in the Senate, he and others worked through the final concerns and the president personally pushed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to clear the way for action on the Senate floor, which he did this week. It is expected to pass.

His Saudi diplomacy has been pretty successful, too.

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