Kim Kardashian takes center stage at White House criminal justice event

Brittany Shepherd
National Politics Reporter

WASHINGTON — Reality television star Kim Kardashian made an appearance Thursday at the White House, where she joined a group of stakeholders and supporters of the First Step Act at a criminal justice event in the East Room. Kardashian — whose cameo occurred on an especially busy news day — was tapped to announce a new administration policy to help ease financial barriers for inmates looking to transition back to civilian life.

“I’m so happy to announce today that we have a ride-share partnership, where formerly incarcerated people will be gifted gift cards so that they can get rides to and from job interviews, to and from jobs, family members. And that is so important, so needed,” Kardashian, the cosmetics mogul and wife of rapper Kanye West, said.

Neither Trump nor Kardashian clarified which ride-share companies would be participating in the voucher program. Trump has had a long-standing relationship with the Kardashian-Jenner family, and self-identifies as a friend of the late Robert Kardashian, father to Kim Kardashian and a member of O.J. Simpson’s legal team.

“She’s going to be one of the most successful lawyers, I hate to tell all my lawyers back there,” Trump said of Kardashian. “I knew her father and I know she has good genes. She’s been a good friend and her husband has been a good friend of mine.”

Kardashian has become a strong proponent of criminal justice reform in recent months. Her advocacy on the issue was on display during an Oval Office meeting with President Trump last May, when she spoke on behalf of first-time nonviolent drug offender Alice Marie Johnson. Trump subsequently commuted Johnson’s prison sentence. The reality television star and Instagram influencer has also tapped attorney and nonprofit leader Van Jones as a mentor of sorts. Jones, who was also present during the spring White House meeting, told Vogue that Kardashian’s appeal to the president was “the most effective, emotionally intelligent intervention that I’ve ever seen in American politics.”

Kim Kardashian speaking in the East Room of the White House, June 13, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Prior to meeting with Trump last spring, Kardashian was in regular contact with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner regarding their efforts to help pass the First Step Act, which pitched an overhaul of the criminal justice system and was signed into law by Trump in December. At Thursday evening’s event, Kardashian sat between the president’s daughter and son-in-law.

“Since the passage of the First Step Act in December, I’ve been speaking with people coming home from prison and learning about the challenges they are facing. While I have been able to offer support to some of the individuals I have met, the obstacles to success are an everyday struggle for thousands, and more needs to be done,” Kardashian wrote on Instagram in advance of Thursday’s meeting. “I’m honored to be a part of the announcement that the administration and the private sector are stepping up to create opportunities for those men and women to success once home,” she added.

Despite publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, Kardashian has shown a willingness to work with Trump, and has credited her interactions with the administration for her newly found role as an activist.

“After [the meeting] I really spent so much time going to different prisons, because I really had no connection to anybody on the inside,” Kardashian said at Thursday’s event. “And really just felt like for me, I am at the place in my life that I wanted to make a difference, and just wanted to do the right thing. But I didn’t know how or what to do, or even really what was going on.”

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