WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and rapper Kanye West were sitting down for lunch at the White House on Thursday to discuss prison reform as Trump seeks to use his celebrity roots to political advantage.
The two were to sit down for a roasted chicken lunch in the private dining room off the Oval Office, along with Hall of Fame NFL running back Jim Brown, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump and his guests would discuss potential future clemencies for convicts along with “addressing the massive violent crime surge in Chicago” and efforts to create jobs for African-Americans.
Kanye’s visit follows by several months a similar trip to the White House by his celebrity wife, Kim Kardashian West, who met with Trump on May 30 and persuaded him to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug charge in Tennessee.
Kanye has drawn fire from other celebrities for his support of Trump, the former reality TV star currently looking ahead to congressional elections on Nov. 6 and his own re-election campaign in 2020.
The Republican president has advocated prison reform and said he was open to changes in sentencing guidelines, an issue that divides the Republican Party between “law and order” hardliners and moderates.
“There are people in jail for really long terms,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “We do need reform. And that doesn’t mean easy. We’re going to make certain categories tougher, when it comes to drug dealing and other things.
“It’s very unfair to African-Americans it’s very unfair to everybody. And it’s also very costly.”
He said he would overrule his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has balked at efforts to reduce sentences served by convicts and is unlikely to support new ones.
“Well if he doesn’t then he gets overruled by me, because I make the decisions, he doesn’t,” Trump said.
Trump claims Kanye West as a friend and a “different kind of a guy” whose big following in the African-American community helped boost his approval ratings. Asked if he would consider campaigning with the rapper, Trump said, “I could see it. I could see it.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland; Editing by Franklin Paul