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President Donald Trump on Thursday described Kanye West as a “very different kind of guy” and praised him as a “genius” who can help him usher in prison reform ahead of a planned White House lunch with the famous rapper later in the day.
In a wide-ranging, 45-minute phone interview with Fox News' "Fox & Friends," Trump said he had “a lot of African-American support” and that “a lot has developed over the last little while with Kanye coming out.”
“I like him a lot, he’s a friend of mine,” Trump said of West, who is scheduled to meet Thursday with Trump, Jared Kushner and former NFL star Jim Brown at the White House to discuss prison reform, gang violence prevention and other topics.
“He's a very different kind of a guy, I say that in a positive way,” Trump added. “Those in the music business say he’s a genius, and that’s okay with me.”
West has repeatedly expressed support for the president, drawing backlash as a result. West has said that he didn't vote in 2016, but if he had, he would have voted for Trump, and he met with Trump during his presidential transition. And in May, Trump met with West's wife, Kim Kardashian West, about criminal sentencing reform. During the meeting, Kardashian West pushed Trump to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time offender who was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for her involvement in a drug conspiracy. The president commuted her sentence in June.
Trump said Thursday that he wanted to push broader prison reform and that if his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was opposed to it, he would “get overruled by me because I make the decisions.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized Sessions in recent months, and rumors have swirled that the beleaguered cabinet official will be fired after the November midterm elections.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump talked recently with Sessions’s own chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, about replacing Sessions as attorney general.
In his interview Thursday with “Fox and Friends,” Trump praised Whitaker as a “great guy” but declined to talk about any “conversations that I had.” He said he was “not doing anything” when it came to Sessions and that “I want to get the elections over with" and "we'll see what happens."
Trump touched on a multitude of other topics during the interview, including a response to comments made by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, that there were people working in the White House whom she didn’t trust.
Melania Trump, in a previously taped interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Thursday morning, replied, “yes,” when asked if her husband “had people that you didn't trust working for him.”
“I let him know,” she said. “Some people, they don't work there anymore and it's very difficult sometimes because I'm so busy with my office, I don't get involved with the West Wing.”
Melania Trump — who also said during the interview that she felt she was “the most bullied person in the world” — added that there were still people inside the White House that her husband can’t trust.
Asked about his wife’s remarks, the president suggested such a situation was “more true” when he first moved to Washington.
“I think it was more true,” he said. “I didn’t know people in Washington.”
"Now I know everybody," he continued, adding that, “I know some that I wish I didn't know but I know a lot of people."