Rapper Kanye West and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West’s involvement with issues like criminal justice reform has been beneficial for the country, says former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C..
“To have a very popular, outspoken African American be not only for Trump but talking about some of these issues is, I just think it’s great for the country,” DeMint said during a meeting with the Washington Examiner’s editorial board Thursday.
The former South Carolina senator said people who support conservatives and conservative policies are often vilified, but called it “pretty neat” to have a “high-profile guy” like West back President Trump and his agenda.
West met with the president at the White House on Thursday. The pair, along with former NFL star Jim Brown, senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, were slated to discuss a range of topics, including potential future clemencies and crime in Chicago.
Kardashian West, meanwhile, met with the president in May to discuss prison reform and urge Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.
Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence in June and said Wednesday he is “actively looking” to release more inmates.
DeMint stressed that the president will be key when it comes to selling criminal justice reform to the American people and countering the narrative that the reforms are “soft on crime.”
“If Trump presents it, I don’t think anyone’s going to think he’s going to be soft on anything,” DeMint said. “But if you’ve got somebody else going out there saying this is a jailbreak, we’re letting violent drug users out in the street, then people are going to oppose it.”
DeMint noted that Trump says things with a “certain authority,” and people generally like that Trump says what he means.
“I find his temperament very refreshing because when he’s talking, I know he’s talking about what’s on his mind,” he said.
The Senate is expected to consider compromise criminal justice reform legislation after the midterm elections, and the issue is one that has been a top priority for Kushner.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions and some Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., warn that sentencing reform efforts would put drug traffickers and serious felons back on the streets.
Trump, however, handed Kushner and criminal justice reform advocates a victory Thursday when he told Fox News in an interview he would overrule Sessions on criminal justice reform.
“I make the decision,” Trump said. “He doesn’t.”
“We do need reform, and that doesn’t mean easy,” he continued. “We’re going to make certain categories tougher when it comes to drug dealing and other things, but there has to be reform because it is very unfair right now. It’s very unfair to African-Americans. It is very unfair to everybody, and it is also very costly.”