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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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)
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)
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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