Short and simple. President Trump granted clemency on Wednesday to a 63-year-old woman who has spent over two decades serving a life sentence on nonviolent drug charges. And on Thursday, Trump tweeted to Alice Johnson wishing her "good luck" and a "wonderful life."
His tweet was brief and to the point, and it marked the first Twitter comment Trump has made about his decision to commute Johnson's sentence. The case gained national attention after Kim Kardashian West got involved, with the reality TV star recently traveling to Washington and meeting with Trump himself over the matter. Kardashian West tweeted on Wednesday that Trump's pardon of Johnson was the "BEST NEWS EVER!!!!"
Johnson's story first gained publicity after a video by Mic News detailing her saga went viral on social media. After a jury convicted Johnson in 1996 on charges of nonviolent drug conspiracy, she faced a lifetime in prison without parole. Johnson elicited widespread sympathy from the public, given the nonviolent nature of her conviction, and the fact that she had earned praise for good behavior during her 23 years behind bars. In the eyes of many — including Kardashian West — Johnson was the ideal candidate for a presidential pardon.
Trump's decision to grant Johnson clemency was greeted with rare bipartisan praise from most commentators.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin tweeted, "I support this commutation," but went on to immediately add that he wanted "@realDonaldTrump to support my bipartisan sentencing reform bill." Durbin noted his bill would help prisoners like Johnson, those who are currently serving life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
Activist Linda Sarsour — who often criticizes Trump and his policies — tweeted, "I have to give credit where it's due" for Johnson's release, name-checking Trump and Kardashian West. Sarsour went on to write she was "feeling overjoyed for Alice. #endmassincarceration."
Another regular voice against Trump also praised his decision to grant Johnson clemency. Jamil Dwakar, the director of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) noted his organization's "rare" applause for a President Trump move. Dwakar wrote in response to Trump's tweet about Johnson, "A rare moment of ACLU commending you for doing the right thing." Like Sen. Durbin, Dwakar went on to urge Trump to "do the same for other federal prisoners serving extreme sentences that don’t match the offenses."
Ryan Hill, a Democratic candidate in Michigan running to replace John Conyers' retired seat, tweeted in response to Trump, "Whatever you feel about Trump this is one area where I will give him credit.. this was the right thing to do!"
Trump's regular supporters were unsurprisingly enthusiastic about Trump's pardon of Johnson. And in another rare instance of bipartisan agreement on anything, right-wing commenters also raised the broader issue of prison reform. Fox News host Sean Hannity opined on his titular program, "This is likely just the beginning of what is a long needed conversation in this country about sentencing, criminal reform, that the president has vowed to tackle."
Video of Johnson's release, including her running to greet and embrace family members waiting to see her, showed how emotional her homecoming was for Johnson and her family. In comments to the press, Johnson said she first and foremost gave thanks to her "Lord and savior, thank Jesus Christ." She also thanked Trump, and Kardashian West, whom she referred to as "our little angel."
Johnson went on to say, "I feel like my life is starting over again. This is a miracle day. The most unexpected thing to happen to me in my life."
With the obvious support of the public and her family, not to mention her extraordinary personal strength, the "wonderful life" Trump wished Johnson looks like a bright possibility.