Activist and CNN host Van Jones credited reality TV star Kim Kardashian on Friday for helping move the president on the issue of criminal justice reform.
“I was in the Oval Office with Kim, with Donald Trump, with Jared Kushner, with Ivanka, and I saw Kim Kardashian move this president,” Van Jones said in an interview with the Breakfast Club.
Jones responded to criticism from black activists for working with Trump and giving actors like Kim Kardashian too much of the credit.
“All the activism in the world … If you had not had a Kim Kardashian, somebody that Trump could relate to, TV star to TV star, we wouldn’t have won, and so I have to give her credit,” he said.
Jones said he was initially exasperated by the Trump administration, especially after Attorney General Jeff Sessions started cracking down on criminals, but that he found an opening by working with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law.
Kushner understood the issue of criminal justice reform right from the start, Jones explained, because his father went to federal prison, but that it was Kardashian who helped President Trump understand the issue.
Kardashian met with Trump in May 2018 and September 2018 to discuss the issue of criminal justice reform. The First Step criminal justice reform bill passed with Trump’s support in December 2018.
“We joined forces and we got it done,” Jones said proudly.
Jones defended his actions from activists who called him a “sell-out” and “an Uncle Tom and a coon” by working with the Trump administration to pass the First Step act.
“I’d rather look conservative and have a radical outcome than look radical and leave the status quo in place,” Van Jones, pointing to the thousands of black people who would be released from prison as a result of the First Step act.
Jones stressed the importance of giving credit to people they disagree with on the issue of prison reform.
“We have to be willing to do that, or we are part of the problem,” he said. “I feel like I have to give him credit where it’s due.”
Jones credited the Tea Party for bringing new Republicans into power who were open to the idea of criminal justice reform, but he did not credit the billionaire Koch brothers’ wide-spread lobbying effort for the issue in Republican states.
He celebrated the idea that both parties were focused on reforming the criminal justice system, urging activists not to give all the power and credit to Democrats.
“If you leave it only to Democrats, you’re actually hurting more than you’re helping,” Jones said.
Jones said that because of his work on prison reform, he had a relationship with Trump and spoke with the president on rare occasions.
“Not very often, but often enough when it matters,” he revealed.
Jones said he was proud of Trump’s State of the Union address, which celebrated criminal justice reform as a major victory, but said he had to describe the speech as “cookies and dog poop” on CNN because of what the president said on immigrants.
“There’s nobody tougher on Trump when he’s wrong, there’s no liberal more willing to give him credit when he’s right,” Jones said. “And that’s the basis of our relationship. And does he like it when I’m on TV saying that stuff? He doesn’t like it. Does he make sure that I know he doesn’t like it? Yeah, he makes sure.”
Jones criticized black activists who publicly refused to talk to Trump in order to tout their radical credentials.
“How do you get to be radical based on what you won’t do?” he asked. “I’m so radical I will talk to Trump.”