The mother whose sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump gave an emotional interview Wednesday during a video reunion, saying she tried to live up to her daughter's image of her as a Phoenix and "rise from those ashes."
Alice Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender, had served 21 years of a life sentence on a conviction of conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine when she was released a week after Kim Kardashian West pleaded her case during an Oval Office meeting with Trump.
"It is so overwhelming," Johnson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a telephone interview after her release.
"Honestly, there were times that I felt like losing hope," Johnson added. "And one of the times when I walked up with another person that received clemency. And I felt my name was on the list. That was a rough day for me. But my daughter tells me I remind her of a Phoenix. And I had to rise from those ashes."
She also thanked Trump for her release.
"I would say to President Trump, I am going to make you proud that you gave me this second chance in life," she said. "And I will not disappoint the American public or the world that has so much faith in me.
"All I can say is thank you President Trump. And I love you President Trump. Thank you. And I want to tell Kim, my angel, that you never gave up on me. You never gave up your fight. You were relentless. And it paid off for me and my family on this day."
Daughter Tretessa Johnson told Cooper she "always had hope" but did not know until Wednesday morning her mom would be released.
"Hi, mom, I am so glad to see you out," she said during the video reunion. "I am looking at the video. I wish I would have been here. I imagined myself being there. But I am glad to see that you got out [Wednesday]. I am excited to see you."
Alice Johnson said she felt her daughter was there at her release in spirit.
"I saw her in the faces of my other relatives, she was right there with me in my heart," she said.
Alice Johnson said she already has a job lined up, "but I really want to work hard with changing things in our criminal justice system. And you probably already know, I love to write. I would love to get that started up there."
Tretessa said her mom "is a kind person and a generous person, and I am thankful that people will get to know her outside of prison."
"And I want people it know that she is genuine. What you see is what you get. This isn't an act."
"Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades," a statement from the White House stated, CNN reported. "While this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance," the statement added.
Kardashian West also hailed the commutation, tweeting, "BEST NEWS EVER!!!!" and expressing gratitude to Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
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