It all began with a phone call. In an interview on TODAY with Alice Johnson, Kim Kardashian said she called Ivanka Trump as her first White House contact about Johnson's case. The celebrity had been campaigning to release the 63-year-old grandmother, who was serving a life sentence on a first-time drug offense, and she needed help from the White House.
I called Ivanka and we had a really great conversation about women and wanting to help each other. I knew that she would've understood Alice. She immediately was so receptive and so great.
It was that phone call that led to a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss Johnson's case. In 1997, Johnson was sentenced to life in federal jail after being convicted of drug trafficking on eight counts. It was a one-time involvement that cost Johnson 21 years of her life. For Kardashian, two decades in federal prison for a non-violent crime reflected a deep problem with America's justice system. It was something that needed to be fixed.
In the interview, Kardashian also explained how Johnson's ordeal became increasingly important to her. "It became this mission that I just didn't want to give up," she told Kotb. "I think to some people it might seem like, OK, Kim made a phone call to the president, showed up. We had been in talks, working on this for seven months. It wasn't an instant thing."
While speaking with Kotb, Johnson described the hurdles she faced before she went to jail. "It's a darkness of the soul. It's something unimaginable. You know, I know that many people experience tragedies and they don't get involved in illegal activities. My house had been foreclosed on, I had to file for bankruptcy. I couldn't really even provide for the things my children needed."
Johnson told Kotb that she didn't realize the drug trafficking she was involved with was seriously illegal activity was; she said she thought it was "minor." But she added that she didn't want to make excuses for herself and realized her wrongdoing. Her remarks to Kotb sounded similar to the message she sent in her 2016 CNN opinion-editorial. Asking former president Barack Obama to release her from prison at the time, Johnson admitted to doing "wrong" but wanted another go at life.
Interestingly enough, Johnson said that she did not know who Kardashian was while she was in prison. When Kotb asked Johnson if she was familiar with Kardashian's name, let alone the almost omnipresent brand she has built over the years, Johnson gave a definitive "no" while Kardashian grinned. But the moment she learned about the celebrity and her support for her and her freedom, Johnson said she began collecting magazines that mentioned Kardashian.
The celebrity told Kotb that after her call to Ivanka, she was in the Oval Office with the president. She was stunned by the development and "just the history," which felt "overwhelming in the most amazing way."
Of course, it was a serious topic — Johnson's freedom — that brought Kardashian to the White House but she wanted to break the ice between Trump and herself. So, what did she do? The celebrity told Kotb she jokingly addressed Trump and said that she was there to know why he fired Khloe Kardashian from The Apprentice. Trump laughed.
So, there you have it. It took a phone call to get Johnson's case rolling. Just one phone conversation between Trump's daughter and one of Hollywood's most famous celebrities brought a woman out of prison after two lengthy and most probably difficult decades.