October 10, 2018
Can Kanye West help jump-start now dormant clemency and criminal justice reform activity in White House?
The question in this title of this post is prompted by this news as reported at Vox: "Kanye West will meet with Trump at the White House to talk prison reform, violence in Chicago." Here is some context:
West is expected to visit Washington on Thursday to meet with President Trump as well as White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to the New York Times. The Times reports that West will meet with Kushner first and will then have lunch with Trump. The meeting was confirmed in a statement by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
West is expected to discuss a number of topics during his visit, including job opportunities for those released from prison, manufacturing jobs in Chicago, and gang violence. Sanders said West — who grew up in Chicago and recently announced plans to move back into the area — will also discuss “what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago,” days after Trump proposed implementing stop-and-frisk policing tactics in the city.
The Thursday meeting won’t be the first between Trump and West; the rapper previously went to Trump Tower in December 2016 to discuss “multicultural issues.” In May, West’s wife, reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian West, met with Trump to discuss prison reform and pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old black woman serving life in federal prison for a first-time drug offense. Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence, and in the months since, Kardashian West has returned to the White House to continue to lobby for prison reform.
Kanye West has become one of the president’s highest-profile celebrity supporters, and he has favorably tweeted about Trump on numerous occasions. Last month, West delivered a pro-Trump speech after a performance on Saturday Night Live. “So many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’ Well, if I was concerned about racism,” West said, “I would have moved out of America a long time ago.”...
The meeting also highlights the continued power of celebrities in the Trump era. While other presidents have often brought celebrities to White House — Barack Obama notably invited rappers including J. Cole and Nicki Minaj to discuss criminal justice reform — these gatherings were also accompanied by policy meetings with experts.
President Trump, meanwhile, has almost exclusively relied on celebrity references from figures like Kardashian West and Sylvester Stallone, as well as input from conservative figures like Ted Cruz and outlets like Fox News, to shape his approach to aspects of the justice system like pardons. Policy meetings on prison reform and sentencing, on the other hand, have been largely left to aides and advisers like Kushner. The president has also fiercely criticized celebrities who speak out against his policies, most recently telling reporters that he likes Taylor Swift’s music “25 percent less” after her recent endorsement of Democrats running for office in Tennessee.
Not every celebrity invited to the White House has gone. For example, rapper Meek Mill, who experienced a decade-long saga with the criminal justice system, dropped out of a May discussion on prison reform, telling reporters that the event had become focused on him and Trump rather than policy.
Much of this seems to be the result of how much influence celebrities — or at least celebrities with minimal criticism of Trump himself — appear to hold in the Trump White House when it comes to matters of criminal justice. A September report from USA Today noted that the Trump administration has taken “an often chaotic, ad hoc approach to clemency.” The report added that the president “has granted pardons to people who haven’t applied for them, bypassed the formal Justice Department review process, and focused his pardon power on a handful of politically charged, high-profile cases.” While there have been efforts to create a more disciplined process, it is unclear if the president would respond positively to such a development.
UPDATE: A helpful reader made sure I saw this new Washington Examiner article headlined "Trump says he will release more inmates: 'A lot of people' jailed 'for no reason'." The piece reports on Prez Trump continuing to talk up the prospect of coming (mass?) clemency grants:
President Trump said Tuesday he is "actively looking" for more inmates to release from prison with his clemency powers, saying "a lot" of people are jailed for years without good reason.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office he was happy he released drug convict Alice Johnson from a life sentence in June, and that he intends to do more. "Alice Johnson is such a great person, such a great case. I'd like to find a lot of people like Alice Johnson. And there are a lot of people that are in a situation like that. And we are actively looking for those situations," he said.
Trump said Johnson "is a terrific woman. I've been watching her a lot and what a great spokesman she is for that situation. And that's covering a lot of people. There are a lot of people like that, that will unfortunately be locked up for many, many years, and there's no reason for it."
"We are looking for — we are actively looking for other situations exactly like that," he said.
A few of many recent related posts about recent Trumpian clemency activity:
- Kimme’s accomplishment: Prez Trump commutes LWOP sentence of Alice Johnson!!
- Prez Trump reportedly "obsessed" with pardons and "may sign a dozen or more in the next two months"
- "Kim Kardashian West pushes White House for more drug sentence commutations"
- Prez Trump now says he is looking at "3,000 names" for possible clemency and will seek more
- "Trump asks for clemency names and lists promptly arrive at White House"
- Former US Pardon Attorney explains why "Trump’s pardons are really not out of the ordinary"
- Another notable report on clemency suggesting Prez Trump will be "pardoning a lot of people — pardons that even Obama wouldn’t do"
- "N.F.L. Players to Trump: Here’s Whom You Should Pardon"
- "The Quest to Get a Pardon in the Trump Era: ‘It’s Who You Know’"
- "Setting the Record Straight: The Pardon Power is Part of the Rule of Law"
- "Pardon System Needs Fixing, Advocates Say, but They Cringe at Trump’s Approach"
- Will Prez Trump deliver on all the clemency "tidal wave" of hopefulness he has engendered?
October 10, 2018 at 11:23 AM | Permalink