Alice Johnson, the criminal justice reform advocate whose life sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump two years ago, has been booked by Team Trump to address the Republican National Convention next week, she confirmed to The Daily Beast.
“I’ll be there talking about criminal justice reform, that is my main mission,” Johnson said in a brief phone call Tuesday afternoon. “I’m there because I’ve been affected by our criminal justice system, and that’s my mission.”
Johnson was released from the Aliceville Federal Correctional Institution in 2018 after serving 21 years of a life sentence on federal cocaine trafficking charges. Trump commuted her sentence after celebrity activist Kim Kardashian directly lobbied the president on Johnson’s behalf.
Johnson’s presence at the convention is a throwback to a prior attempt by Trump and his campaign to reach African American voters, to whom Trump has appealed with frequent reminders of his pardons and commutations of a number of nonviolent drug offenders, many of them Black. The topic of criminal justice reform was central to a $10 million Super Bowl ad that the Trump campaign purchased—an ad that revolved around Johnson’s story.
Johnson’s convention speech, and the larger Trump campaign messaging it portends, will also come as the president’s reelection effort vacillates between attacks on Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent: a soft-on-crime left-wing radical on the one hand, and a draconian drug warrior on the other.
According to one source familiar with the convention booking, Johnson was on a “shortlist” of proposed convention speakers approved by Trump and Jared Kushner in the run-up to the event. The same Trump-approved list also included Nicholas Sandmann, the recent high school graduate who’s sued multiple news organizations over coverage of a confrontation with Native American activists on the National Mall last year, who is slated to address the convention next week as well.
“I left so many people behind, and I made a promise to the women there that I would fight for this wherever and whenever I can,” said Johnson.