President Trump on Thursday said he would overrule Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he tries to stymie efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system. “If he doesn't, then he gets overruled by me,” Trump said when asked during an interview with “Fox & Friends” about Sessions's opposition to the effort.
Trump: I'll Overrule Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Criminal Justice Reform
“If he doesn't, then he gets overruled by me,” Trump said when asked during an interview with “Fox & Friends” about Sessions's opposition to the effort.
“There has to be a reform because it's very unfair right now,” the president added. “It's very unfair to African-Americans. It's very unfair to everybody. And it's also very costly.”
Sessions, a law-and-order candidate who became estranged from Trump over the Russia probe, played a role in successfully urging the president to put off action on criminal justice reform before the midterm elections.
But Trump now appears to have made the issue a top priority thanks in large measure to the advocacy of senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, his son in law.
“Jared Kushner has kept the president in the loop and today’s statements by the president are indicative that he’s interested in this issue and is the one that will make the final decision,” said a person familiar with the discussion, who added that Kushner has briefed the president regularly on the matter.
Trump's comments came hours before he was scheduled to have lunch with the rapper Kanye West and former NFL star Jim Brown, who are expected to urge Trump to move forward with sentencing and prison reforms.
The president heaped praise on West and Brown, saying the support from the rapper caused his approval among African-Americans to shoot up "like 25 percent" because "he's got a big following in the African-American community."
"First of all, I like him a lot," Trump said of West. "He's a friend of mine. I've known him for a long time. He's a different kind of guy. He's a very different kind of a guy, I say that in a positive way."
West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, played an active role in persuading Trump to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense committed in the early 1990s.
Trump said Kardashian “brought the attention to Mrs. Johnson” and said it was unfair that she received such a long sentence.
The president also noted prison reform efforts in Texas and Georgia.
Criminal justice reform appears to have fresh momentum on Capitol Hill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that he would bring the issue to the floor after the Nov. 6 election if it has enough votes to overcome a filibuster.
“We’re going to try real hard to get it done,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill Wednesday.