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Trump: I'll overrule Sessions on criminal justice reform

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE on Thursday said he would overrule Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsJohn Kelly to leave White House at year's end Five things to know about William Barr, Trump’s pick for Justice Department Trump says AG pick deserves bipartisan support MORE if he tries to stymie efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system.  

“If he doesn't, then he gets overruled by me,” Trump said when asked during an interview with “Fox & Friends” about Sessions's opposition to the effort.

“There has to be a reform because it's very unfair right now,” the president added. “It's very unfair to African-Americans. It's very unfair to everybody. And it's also very costly.”

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Sessions, a law-and-order candidate who became estranged from Trump over the Russia probe, played a role in successfully urging the president to put off action on criminal justice reform before the midterm elections.  

But Trump now appears to have made the issue a top priority thanks in large measure to the advocacy of senior White House adviser, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference John Kelly to leave White House at year's end The Memo: All eyes on Kelly as Trump shake-up gathers steam MORE, his son in law.

“Jared Kushner has kept the president  in the loop and today’s statements by the president are indicative that he’s interested in this issue and is the one that will make the final decision,” said a person familiar with the discussion, who added that Kushner has briefed the president regularly on the matter.  

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower House set to vote on bill cracking down on drug companies overcharging Medicaid Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE (R-Iowa), Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform Political opposites come together for Bush funeral Live coverage: Washington honors George HW Bush with state funeral MORE (D-Ill.) and other lawmakers have also urged Trump to support criminal-justice legislation in Congress.

Trump's comments came hours before he was scheduled to have lunch with the rapper Kanye West and former NFL star Jim Brown, who are expected to urge Trump to move forward with sentencing and prison reforms. 

The president heaped praise on West and Brown, saying the support from the rapper caused his approval among African-Americans to shoot up "like 25 percent" because "he's got a big following in the African-American community." 

"First of all, I like him a lot," Trump said of West. "He's a friend of mine. I've known him for a long time. He's a different kind of guy. He's a very different kind of a guy, I say that in a positive way."

West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, played an active role in persuading Trump to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense committed in the early 1990s.

Trump said Kardashian “brought the attention to Mrs. Johnson” and said it was unfair that she received such a long sentence.

The president also noted prison reform efforts in Texas and Georgia.

Criminal justice reform appears to have fresh momentum on Capitol Hill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Sunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that he would bring the issue to the floor after the Nov. 6 election if it has enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

“We’re going to try real hard to get it done,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill Wednesday.