Exclusive: Kardashian West in talks with White House about pardoning nonviolent drug offender


Kim Kardashian West and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner have spoken over the phone about a possible presidential pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 62-year-old great-grandmother serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.

The telephone calls, according to a source with knowledge of the conversations, have taken place over the course of the past several months and have picked up in intensity over the last several days.

A representative for Kardashian West confirmed to Mic that she has been in communication with the White House and is working to bring Johnson’s case to the president’s desk.

The source with knowledge of the conversations also told Mic that Johnson’s case has been reviewed by White House attorneys.

Johnson, who has been in federal prison since October 1996, has captured international attention from criminal reform activists — and Kardashian West.

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Kim Kardashian out and about in 2018
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Kim Kardashian out and about in 2018
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Kim Kardashian attends the 2018 Tiffany & Co. Blue Book Gala on October 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/WireImage,)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Kim Kardashian West attends Tiffany & Co. Celebrates 2018 Tiffany Blue Book Collection, THE FOUR SEASONS OF TIFFANY at Studio 525 on October 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Tiffany & Co.)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Kim Kardashian is seen in a backless white dress on October 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gotham/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Kim Kardashian seen out and about in Manhattan on September 30, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: (L-R) North West, Kim Kardashian and Penelope Disick are seen in SoHo on September 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gotham/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: Kim Kardashian (R) and North West seen in Manhattan on September 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Kim Kardashian seen out and about in Manhattan on September 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Kim Kardashian is seen wearing a money dress and matching boots on September 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Kim Kardashian is seen on September 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by wowcelebritytv/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 21: Kim Kardashian West attends Christie's x What Goes Around Comes Around 25th Anniversary Auction Preview at What Goes Around Comes Around on August 21, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for What Goes Around Comes Around)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 21: Kim Kardashian attends What Goes Around Comes Around 25th Anniversary Auction Beverly Hills Preview, presented by Christie's, at What Goes Around Comes Around on August 21, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 09: Kim Kardashian is seen on August 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Monday, July 30 included Kim Kardashian West ('Keeping Up with the Kardashians'), Hayley Atwell ('Christopher Robin'), and musical guest Train. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) KIM KARDASHIAN WEST
INGLEWOOD, CA - JULY 29: Kim Kardashian West attends the first annual 'If Only' Texas hold'em charity poker tournament benefiting City of Hope at The Forum on July 29, 2018 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CA - JULY 29: Kris Jenner (L) and Kim Kardashian West attend the first annual 'If Only' Texas hold'em charity poker tournament benefiting City of Hope at The Forum on July 29, 2018 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: Kim Kardashian West attends the Beautycon Festival LA 2018 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on July 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 06: Kim Kardashian is seen leaving Nobu on July 06, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Kim Kardashian West attends KKW Beauty Fan Event at KKW Beauty on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ABA)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Kim Kardashian West (L) and Kris Jenner attend KKW Beauty Fan Event at KKW Beauty on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ABA)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 21: Kim Kardashian , Kanye West and La La Anthony attend Teyana Taylor Album release Party at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 21, 2018 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Prince Williams/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 21: Kim Kardashian attends the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 21, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 21: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian attend the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 21, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 06: Kim Kardashian West speaks onstage at MDNA SKIN hosts Madonna and Kim Kardashian West for a beauty conversation at YouTube Space LA on March 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Madonna's MDNA SKIN)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 06: Kim Kardashian west and Madonna backstage at MDNA SKIN hosts Madonna and Kim Kardashian West for a beauty conversation at YouTube Space LA on March 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Madonna's MDNA SKIN)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JUNE 18: Kim Kardashian West attends the BoF West Summit at Westfield Century City on June 18, 2018 in Century City, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Business of Fashion)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JUNE 18: Kris Jenner (L) and Kim Kardashian West attend the BoF West Summit at Westfield Century City on June 18, 2018 in Century City, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Business of Fashion)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 16: TV personality Kim Kardashian, winner of the Best Reality Series/Franchise award for 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians', walks off stage during the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Chris Polk/VMN18/Getty Images for MTV)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 16: TV personalities Kim Kardashian (L) and Kris Jenner attend the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 16: KIm Kardashian arrives at the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and daughter North West seen out and about in Manhattan on June 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West seen out and about in Manhattan on June 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 14: (L-R) Kim Kardashian West, La La Anthony, and Jonathan Cheban attend the Nas 'Nasir' Album Listening Session on June 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 14: North West and Kim Kardashian seen on the streets of Manhattan on June 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Kim Kardashian West and Alice Johnson on Wednesday June 13, 2018 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kim Kardashian West attends the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards at Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kim Kardashian West attends the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards at Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
TV personality Kim Kardashian is seen entering the grounds of the White House on May 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Kim Kardashian is seen walking in Soho on May 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Kim Kardashian is seen in Chinatown on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by TheStewartofNY/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: (L-R) Talent Manager, Jenner Communications, Kris Jenner, Model Kendall Jenner, Founder, Kylie Cosmetics Kylie Jenner, and Founder and CEO, KKW Kim Kardashian attends an intimate dinner hosted by The Business of Fashion to celebrate its latest special print edition 'The Age of Influence' at Peachy's/Chinese Tuxedo on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Business of Fashion)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Kim Kardashian is seen walking in Soho on May 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Kim Kardashian West attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/Getty Images for Vogue)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Kim Kardashian attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Kim Kardashian West is seen arriving to the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: TV Personality Kim Kardashian attends as The Mark Hotel celebrates the 2018 Met Gala at The Mark Hotel on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The Mark Hotel)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 31: Kim Kardashian West attends KKWxMario Dinner at Jean-Georges Beverly Hills on March 31, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/WireImage)
WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES - 2018/03/24: Kim Kardashian and Husband Kanye West along with Daughter North West, show up to support March For Our Lives. Tens of thousands of Americans took to the street on Washington DC during the 'March for our Lives' demonstration against gun violence in schools in the United States. (Photo by Emilee McGovern/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West attend March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for March For Our Lives)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 13: Kim Kardashian West attends Lorraine Schwartz launches The Eye Bangle a new addition to her signature Against Evil Eye Collection at Delilah on March 13, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Lorraine Schwartz )
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 13: Kim Kardashian West attends Lorraine Schwartz launches The Eye Bangle a new addition to her signature Against Evil Eye Collection at Delilah on March 13, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Lorraine Schwartz )
CHATSWORTH, CA - MARCH 09: Kim Kardashian watches courtside as Sierra Canyon plays Foothills Christian for the CIF Open Division Playoffs at Sierra Canyon High School on March 9, 2018 in Chatsworth, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 05: Kim Kardashian attends the release of Marina Acton's new single 'Fantasize' at Boulevard3 on March 5, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 05: Marina Acton and Kim Kardashian take a selfie at the release of Marina Acton's new single 'Fantasize' at Boulevard3 on March 5, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 02: Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian are seen upon arrival at Tokyo Station on March 2, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 26: Kim Kardashian is seen upon arrival at Haneda Airport on February 26, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 25: Kim Kardashian is seen on February 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Entrepreneur Kim Kardashian West at the Create & Cultivate Los Angeles conference in the Simon G. Jewelry Green Room on February 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Create & Cultivate )
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Kim Kardashian is seen on February 07, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by BG002/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Kim Kardashian is seen on February 07, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by BG005/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are seen on January 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by BG022/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
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Kardashian West first learned about Johnson’s case from a Mic video published in October. Kardashian West shared it on Twitter, and the video has since been viewed more than 8 million times.

Shortly after, Kardashian West became involved in trying to free Johnson, who was convicted for her role facilitating communications in a drug trafficking case.

In November, Kardashian West enlisted a team of lawyers, including her Los Angeles-based attorney Shawn Holley, to advocate for Johnson’s release.

The two women also have communicated, with Johnson expressing her gratitude toward Kardashian West for her support in a November letter.

Still, it appears the only clear path for Johnson’s release would be a presidential pardon or clemency — which could come at odds with Trump’s recent proposal to impose the death penalty for certain drug dealers.

In her October op-ed, Johnson told Mic she became involved in drug trafficking as a way to make ends meet following a particularly rough period in her life: She lost her job at FedEx, where she had worked for 10 years, due to a gambling addiction; she got divorced; and then her youngest son died in a motorcycle accident.

“I felt like a failure,” Johnson said. “I went into a complete panic and out of desperation, I made one of the worst decisions of my life to make some quick money. I became involved in a drug conspiracy.”

Johnson was arrested and sentenced to life in prison, with no opportunity for parole. As of May 2018, she has spent over two decades behind bars.

For criminal justice reform advocates, Johnson’s case serves as a glaring example of why America’s sentencing laws need reform.

Johnson was one of six prisoners featured in the ACLU’s campaign to end mass incarceration. She has also participated in Skype conversations at top universities including Yale and New York University, as well as at companies such as Google, where Mic first became aware of her story.

One of Johnson’s daughters, Tretessa Johnson, told Mic in a video in November that her mother is remorseful and has been a model prisoner during her time behind bars.

“She’s made some serious mistakes in her life, but she is not this monster,” Tretessa Johnson said in that video. “I mean, she’s really turned a very negative situation to as positive of a situation as she can.”

President Barack Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals in December 2016, many of whom had similar drug-related charges. Johnson was not one of them.

“When the criteria came out for clemency, I thought for sure — in fact, I was certain that I’d met and exceeded all of the criteria,” Johnson told Mic. “Oh my goodness, I had so much support.”

Now, her hope rests with Trump.

News of Kushner and Kardashian West’s conversations comes on the heels of multiple reports in recent months that Kushner has been working to pass a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in Congress, co-sponsored by Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), among others.

The Prison Reform and Redemption Act would enact federally sponsored programs to help prepare prisoners for reentry into society, with the aim of reducing rates of recidivism. However, these efforts appear to have stalled as a result of growing opposition from leading Democrats in Congress, who believe the proposal doesn’t go far enough to address other key criminal justice issues, like sentencing reform.

Nonetheless, criminal justice reform remains one of the top issues in Kushner’s policy portfolio. He, alongside his wife and assistant to the president, Ivanka Trump, have hosted a series of bipartisan dinners over the past year in order to build support for the issue in Congress.

It remains to be seen whether Kardashian West, Kanye West, Kushner or Trump will meet in person in the coming weeks to discuss Johnson’s case.

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