Trump: I'll overrule Sessions on criminal justice reform

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE on Thursday said he would overrule Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants 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 KushnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump poses for controversial photo op at DC church amid protests Tucker Carlson tees off on Trump, Kushner: 'People will not forgive weakness' Trump's strategy to stay in office 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: Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19, study finds | WHO to resume hydroxychloroquine clinical research | WHO says no evidence coronavirus is mutating Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers MORE (R-Iowa), Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies Rosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  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 McConnellSenate passes bill to give flexibility for small business coronavirus aid program On The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill 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.