Kim Kardashian West is responding to those who say Donald Trump used her as a political pawn in securing the commutation of Alice Marie Johnson, the 63-year-old first-time nonviolent drug offender who in 1996 was given a life sentence without parole.
Speaking with CNN’s Van Jones in an interview that aired Thursday, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality star, 37, responded to criticism that she now endorses the president after he accepted her months-long campaign for Johnson’s freedom.
“I think Kanye’s already given him legitimacy in that way,” Kardashian West said, referring to her rapper husband’s public support for Trump, even calling the commander-in-chief his “brother” in April.
“I was working on this before. I don’t think I would be used. At the end of the day, he heard me out. We got the job done. What could he really use me for?” she told Jones.
On Wednesday, Kardashian West celebrated the news of Johnson’s release from federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama, where she had been serving her sentence for more than 20 years. The KKW Beauty mogul also thanked Trump and his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, whom Kardashian West had also spoken with about a possible pardon for Johnson.
Recalling her visit to the Oval Office on May 30, Kardashian West told Jones, “I have to say I never get starstruck. I was starstruck over the Oval Office.”
The mother of three also recalled the conversation she had with Trump prior to the announcement of Johnson’s release.
“It says ‘Unknown.’ I remember I was on the phone with my husband and I said, ‘Wait, babe, I have to call you back.’ And it was a secretary on the line who said she had the president on the phone and I knew it had to be some news,” Kardashian West remembered. “I was always really hopeful. And I had been in communication with Jared so I was feeling things were looking really positive.”
During her CNN interview, Kardashian West revealed that Trump “really investigated this case” prior to his decision to grant Johnson’s clemency plea.
“They spoke to [Johnson’s] warden and just spoke to everyone. Everyone had a unanimous feeling of Alice that she will live a great life and that she has done her time, has been a model person in prison,” Kardashian West said.
“[Johnson] didn’t have any infractions or behavior or anything. And she became an ordained minister. She got so many degrees. Knowing that she’s never going to get out but she is so amazing and is working on herself when she was there. He felt her heart and he explained that to me. When he said he has the papers in front of him and he was signing it and my heart was so full,” she shared.
Kardashian West expressed her thanks to Trump and Kushner on Twitter, explaining that she hopes to continue “this important work” by joining forces with organizations fighting for prison reform.
“So grateful to @realDonaldTrump, Jared Kushner & to everyone who has showed compassion & contributed countless hours to this important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson. Her commutation is inspirational & gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance,” she tweeted.
Johnson previously opened up about what Kardashian West’s help has meant to her in a recent essay for CNN, writing, “Some refer to prison as a place where hope dies. Some days I’ve found that to be almost right. Each time that I’ve come close [to giving up], God has restored my faith.”
She added, “So when the unlikely voices of Kim Kardashian West and Jared Kushner came together to shine a spotlight on my case, I could only thank God, for he works in mysterious ways.”