On Wednesday, reality television star Kim Kardashian West took a trip to the Oval Office, meeting with President Donald Trump. The meeting caused quite a stir, and inspired questions as to how Kardashian West might affect policy.
Here are five things to know about the starlet’s visit with Trump.
1. Criminal justice reform.
After the meeting, President Trump shared the topic he discussed with Kardashian West on Wednesday. “Great meeting with [Kim Kardashian] today, talked about prison reform and sentencing,” the president tweeted along with a photo of the two behind the Resolute Desk.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
Criminal justice reform is among the few issues that attract bipartisan support. Drug offenders often face mandatory long prison sentences for rather minor offenses, whatever their race.
Criminal justice reform advocates have long considered the Trump administration a lost opportunity, due to the efforts of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As FiveThirtyEight’s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux noted, Sessions has pushed the justice system in a direction reminiscent of the 1990s, championing the federal death penalty, reversing Obama-era motions against marijuana crackdowns, and directing prosecutors to use the most serious charges against drug suspects.
Earlier this month, however, Republicans and Democrats in Congress joined together to introduce the FIRST STEP Act to jumpstart prison reform by favoring rehabilitation. The push began last fall with a measure sponsored by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Jeffries and Collins reportedly worked with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner to put together a package the president could support. Even in these efforts, Sessions’ opposition to sentencing reform presented a major hurdle.
2. Alice Marie Johnson.
On Twitter, Kardashian West wished a happy birthday to Alice Marie Johnson, adding, “Today is for you,” with a prayer emoji.
Happy Birthday Alice Marie Johnson. Today is for you 🙏🏼✨
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 30, 2018
Johnson has been serving a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. She was sentenced in 1996. According to the Associated Press, Johnson helped lead a multimillion-dollar cocaine ring from 1991 to 1994. She was tried on cocaine conspiracy and money laundering charges.
In October, Mic shared a moving video of Johnson lamenting her life sentence, explaining the desperation that drove her to drug trafficking, and detailing the life she had lost after more than 20 years in prison without parole. She missed the birth of her grandchildren and great grandson, as well as the passing of her mother and father.
Alice Marie Johnson has been in prison for 21 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. pic.twitter.com/VFe29D2ve8
— Mic (@mic) October 23, 2017
Kardashian West retweeted the Mic video, saying, “This is so unfair…”
This is so unfair… https://t.co/W3lPINbQuy
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 26, 2017
After the reality star and Jared Kushner championed her case, Johnson published a CNN op-ed explaining her situation. Had she been tried for her crimes now, she would not have received a life sentence. She admitted her wrongdoing, recounted her divorce and the death of her son that led to her desperation, and said she relied on God for home in this dark situation.
“If I could go back in time and change the choices that I have made and make different choices, I would. But I can’t,” Johnson wrote. “But what I have done is I have not allowed my past to be the sum of who I am.”
After her meeting with the president, Kardashian West expressed “hope that the President will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.”
I would like to thank President Trump for his time this afternoon. It is our hope that the President will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 31, 2018
Grateful, Johnson posted a letter thanking Kardashian West for her support and declaring herself “humbled” by the reality star’s efforts. “Ms. Kardashian, you are literally helping to save my life and restore me to my family,” Johnson wrote. “I was drowning and you have thrown me a life jacket and given me hope that this Life jacket I’m serving may one day be taken off.”
She described this moment as a “defining moment” in history shaping “the destiny of this nation.” Boldly, she declared, “I believe that history will record that Kim Kardashian had the courage to take a stand against human warehousing and was a key figure in meaningful criminal justice reform becoming a reality.”
3. Didn’t Kim Kardashian West endorse Hillary Clinton?
During the 2016 election, Kim Kardashian West endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton, while her husband Kanye West signaled his support for Donald Trump. After Kanye West shared pro-Trump tweets in April, that bridge might have enabled Kim Kardashian West to make contact with the president on this issue.
CNN reported that the reality TV star was given unusual access to the White House. When she departed, her black Chevrolet SUV parked inside the White House grounds, while most VIP guests are required to walk through a gate to board their vehicles.
Trump may have intended to signal that his White House is available for former Clinton supporters, and that he would work with African-American celebrities to help achieve key goals for the black community.
4. “Kim Thong Un.”
The New York Post didn’t miss a beat. The newspaper’s front page employed many clever jokes in reporting the meeting between the president and the reality TV star. Some of the jokes proved rather crass.
“THE OTHER BIG A** SUMMIT,” read the top. The text at the bottom of the image ran, “TRUMP MEETS RUMP.” The story? “Kim Thong Un pitches prez on prison reform.” Wow.
— New York Post (@nypost) May 30, 2018
Quite a clever cover, but far too crass for serious news. Even so, users on Twitter had to express their appreciation for the jokes, even when they found the Post‘s bawdy humor offensive.
This is awful and the NYP is so disrespectful but also I can't stop laughing ??? https://t.co/LVSoexBEBQ
— Biddeo Hoejima (@Luvina_things) May 30, 2018
5. Other great responses.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave a serious and positive response. “I applaud the attention that criminal justice reform is getting from[Kim Kardashian West] and [Donald Trump],” Paul tweeted. “The system is broken. Much remains to be done in a bipartisan way! Let’s make it happen.”
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 31, 2018
Others made excellent jokes about the meeting.
“This is a mad lib,” tweeted Alex Medina. The setup would run “[random celebrity, Kim Kardashian] met with [random celebrity, Donald Trump] at [random place, the White House] to discuss [random issue, criminal justice reform].”
this is a mad lib https://t.co/62JMvmxdjy
— alex medina (@mrmedina) May 30, 2018
Others quipped that the Trump-Kardashian meeting — as opposed to the meeting between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un — was the “highly anticipated Trump-Kim summit.”
The highly anticipated Trump-Kim summit: https://t.co/BMxYKxWKl8
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) May 30, 2018
The Jerusalem Post‘s Amy Spiro quipped, “One Kim wouldn’t meet with him so he found another.”
One Kim wouldn't meet with him so he found another https://t.co/EW1HJQcLQ6
— Amy Spiro (@AmySpiro) May 30, 2018
Fox News host Greg Gutfeld had perhaps the best response. He joked that Trump is “the only President who can juggle two Kims at once.”
the only President who can juggle two Kims at once. https://t.co/m9qzZIg1yR
— GregGutfeld (@greggutfeld) May 30, 2018