In a move advocated by Kim Kardashian West, Donald Trump commuted a 63-year-old woman’s life sentence for a non-violent drug crime on Wednesday. The president granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson. And her daughter, Tretessa Johnson, thanked Kardashian West and Trump for her mother's release in an effusive Facebook post.
Johnson's daughter said in her post,
Mama is coming home! Thank you, Lord, for your grace and blessings! Thanks so much, President Trump, for extending mercy towards my mother and giving her her freedom back. My heart is so full of gratitude for the beautiful inside and out Kim Kardashian West who decided to advocate for [Johnson] and essentially save the life of my mother, someone she had never heard of met.
On MSNBC, an audibly excited and relieved Tretessa expressed similar joy, "You know, [Kardashian West] is an amazing person and I'll be forever grateful for what she has done. And I thank President Trump also for extending the mercy choice on my mother and giving her a second chance because this is really saving her life. Because she was going to die and die in prison."
On Wednesday, the White House released a statement on Johnson saying that the president believed the 63-year-old "has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades." The statement added, "While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance."
It was this very announcement that elicited an all-caps exclamation from Kardashian West on Twitter: "BEST NEWS EVER!"
The news arrives only a day after The Washington Post reported that White House sources close to the president said that he was leaning toward pardoning Johnson. But at the time, The Post noted that the insiders pointed to certain obstacles in the president's way, namely White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and White House Counsel Donald McGahn.
The former, according to one White House official who spoke with the publication, said that Johnson's status as being convicted of drug trafficking did not deserve any sort of soft stances from Trump. According to another White House official, McGahn said that clemency shown toward Johnson was "unnecessary."
The report cited White House adviser Jared Kushner as one of the people reportedly rooting for Johnson. Kushner, coincidentally, also gets a shout-out in Tretessa's Facebook post.
For Johnson's supporters, her life sentence beginning in 1997 shows how the American justice system may have been remarkably harsh toward her, especially considering that she was convicted of a non-violent offense. Her attorney Brittany Barnett spoke with The Daily Mail and said that the punishment "more than pays her debt to society and that to keep her prison the rest of her life is morally and economically unjustifiable."
While Barack Obama was president in 2016, Johnson wrote an opinion-editorial for CNN and said that she knew that her actions were indefensible and added that it was the "biggest mistake" of her life to get involved in drug trafficking. But she said that it was a matter of poor decision-making and unbearable economic circumstances. In her opinion-editorial, Johnson implored her readers to understand how the justice system in the country affected the people under it.
Now that Trump has commuted her sentence, Johnson and her loved ones are probably relieved. But the development comes with a critical caveat. There is a crucial difference between pardoning and commutation. Trump did not pardon Johnson, which would have involved an official removal of her conviction. The president commuted her sentence, which means that the 63-year-old woman's life in prison is over but the conviction remains on her record.