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CNN's Van Jones credits Trump for criminal justice bill: 'gonna piss off all my liberal friends'

Trump's support pushed the First Step Act over the top

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill that the Senate passed Tuesday night, unified some unlikely allies who wanted to fight mass incarceration.

One example of these unusual alliances is CNN's Van Jones and President Donald Trump, who found themselves on the same side of the issue. And Jones, possibly to the chagrin of those on his side of the political spectrum, has no problem giving Trump the credit he deserves for the bill's passage.

"I'm gonna say something." Jones began tentatively. "It's gonna piss off all my liberal friends. You know what made a difference? Donald J. Trump finally said 'enough is enough.'"

What does he mean by that?

Jones, during an interview at an Axios event aired on C-SPAN, told the story of the First Step Act's ups and downs in the past year, and the obstacles it overcame to get through the Senate after winning support in the House.

"And then, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell says 'screw you guys, I don't care how hard you've worked, we're not going to give you a vote until the lame duck, and in the lame duck you've got to have 60 votes,'" Jones said. "So we get 70 votes, and we go tell McConnell, and he says 'I'm still not going to give you a vote.'"

That's when Jones said the pressure from Trump on McConnell was essential to the bill's passage.

"Donald J. Trump made it very clear that the next set of tweets was going to be for Mitch McConnell," Jones said. "And that, among other things, helped Mitch McConnell see the light. ... At the end of the day, Mitch McConnell had to vote for our bill."

How was Jones involved?

Jones has been pushing for criminal justice reform since the 1990s, and as the president and co-founder of #cut50, he played an active role in gaining support for the First Step Act in Congress. #cut50 is an organization that works to reduce the nation's prison population.

Jones and #cut50 co-founder and national director Jessica Jackson Sloan worked closely with White House senior advisor Jared Kushner to get the president and members of Congress to support the bill.

Now, it is poised to pass the House this week, and Trump has promised to sign it when it gets to his desk.

"This is a Christmas miracle," Jones said on CNN. "You had, for the first time in more than a generation, both parties coming together to do something for people at the bottom."

One last thing…
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