Anchor Stephanie Ruhle asked criminal justice reform activist Alice Johnson, who spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of President Donald Trump, if she would be willing to talk to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about criminal justice reform, Friday on MSNBC.
Johnson was granted clemency by President Trump after celebrity Kim Kardashian advocated for Johnson’s release from a life sentence on a drug conspiracy and money laundering conviction.
Partial transcript as follows:
RUHLE: Joining me, my dear friend Alice Johnson. Always good to see you. Until now, you have been very careful. you’ve always said you’re a criminal justice advocate but you didn’t want to get political. Speaking at the RNC is as political as it gets. why did you change your mind?
JOHNSON: It was a great opportunity to get the message across the nation to support criminal justice reform. And as I said in my speech last night, my dear friend, I made a promise to the women who I left behind and also the men that I would never stop fighting for them whenever and wherever it takes me.
RUHLE: But it’s more than saying you’re fighting for criminal justice reform. By endorsing President Trump, you’re saying he is the person who is fighting for criminal justice reform. You don’t believe Joe Biden would?
JOHNSON: I don’t know what Joe Biden would do. I just know that with this administration they’ve been open to the things I’ve been bringing to the table. So I’m so focused on my mission that I’m not going to speak on what Joe Biden will or will not do. I’m going to speak to what I know.
RUHLE: Your speech seemed to make the most compelling case that President Trump say compassionate person. Do you believe other people in the African-American community believe that he’s compassionate, especially given his law and order policies?
JOHNSON: Well, even law and order must be underpinned by justice and mercy. You know, and many people who I’ve talked to, they are very, very compelled by what he did for me and the compassion that he showed for me. I wouldn’t dare speak to what other people think. I just know what I feel, and that I know he had compassion upon me and I know my situation moved him to act. When I speak, Stephanie, I speak from a personal place. I can’t speak to anyone else.
RUHLE: The president highlighted last night his executive order demanding ten-year prison sentences for anyone convicted of tearing down statues and monuments, including confederate statues. How does that square with his criminal justice reform? Ten years.
JOHNSON: I mean, that was the first time that I heard that. And I don’t know what his full policy is. I’m not just trying to be careful, but I don’t want to speak out of turn. And so that’s why I can’t say that because that was my first time hearing that.
RUHLE: I can say that I certainly appreciate that you are no longer in prison and you’re with your family. Last night you were sitting in the audience on the white house lawn for President Trump’s speech. Most of the people around you were not wearing masks. Can i ask you, were you tested for coronavirus beforehand?
JOHNSON: Yes, I’ve been tested. I was tested before I went in there. So I had a mask on and the people around me who I was sitting with, they had been tested.
RUHLE: Good. You know I want you to be safe, Alice.
JOHNSON: Oh, yes, I know. I had my mask. As soon as I got up, I put that mask back on.
RUHLE: Good. When I watched last night, I thought my girl Alice better have a mask. I want her safe.
JOHNSON: Oh, I did. I had one right there.
RUHLE: You had a chance, I’m glad, to deliver your message to an enormous audience, to the country. What do you hope viewers took away from your speech?
JOHNSON: I hope that they took away that there are many others like me who deserve a second chance and also my message to them that there is redemption. That there’s so many others who deserve a second chance and not to just look at us as being disposable because they don’t see us. so every time people see my face, I hope that they’re reminded of the faces of others.
RUHLE: Alice, you had said you don’t know what Joe Biden would do in terms of criminal justice reform. Has his campaign reached out to you? And if they, do would you be opening to talking to him?
JOHNSON: His campaign has not reached out to me. I would like to know everyone’s plan what they have. I’ve been working with the White House on what their plans on, and I feel good about them. So no one has reached out to me from his organization, from his campaign.
RUHLE: Well, I appreciate all that you do every day, Alice. it’s always a pleasure to see you.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN