WASHINGTON — A woman freed from federal prison after President Donald Trump cut short her life sentence for drug offenses and a Delaware boy allegedly bullied because his last name is Trump headline a varied group of 13 guests who will sit with first lady Melania Trump for the State of the Union address.
Alice Marie Johnson, 63, served more than two decades of a life sentence without parole before Trump commuted her sentence last year. Johnson’s case had been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who personally lobbied Trump in the Oval Office.
Johnson was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts related to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking ring. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, rejected her appeals. Her requests for clemency had been rejected by President Barack Obama, who during eight years in office commuted the sentences of hundreds of federal inmates convicted of drug crimes.
Delaware’s Brandywine School District said last year that steps had been taken to support Joshua Trump, a middle-school student who reportedly had been bullied for years because he shares the president’s last name.
Guests the White House invites to the State of the Union typically serve to help put a face on policies the president will promote in the nationally televised address.
Johnson’s case spotlights legislation Trump signed into law last year to address concerns about the criminal justice system, including giving judges more discretion in sentencing some drug offenders. Bullying prevention is a key element of an initiative Mrs. Trump named “Be Best.”
Other guests will represent Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration, his push to halt human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border, efforts to stem the deadly opioid addiction epidemic and his economic policies.
The remaining guests are:
- Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong, the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter, respectively, of a Reno, Nevada, couple allegedly killed in their home last month by a person illegally in the U.S.
- Matthew Charles, a Tennessee man who was among the first prisoners released under the First Step criminal justice legislation Trump signed in December.
- Grace Eline, a 9-year-old brain cancer survivor.
- Ashley Evans, a former opioid addict nearing one year and one month of sobriety who hopes to be reunited with her daughter full-time.
- Elvin Hernandez, a special agent with the Homeland Security Department’s human trafficking unit.
- Roy James, plant manager of a lumber facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi, that the White House says was reopened under provisions in Trump’s tax cut legislation.
- Timothy Matson, a Pittsburgh police officer and SWAT team member who was shot multiple times while responding to the deadly October 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Eleven people were killed.
- Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Tree of Life Synagogue.
- Tom Wibberley, father of Navy seaman Craig Wibberley, who was killed in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
Podcast special: On Wednesday morning, Feb. 6, join the PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor and Daniel Bush as they share their thoughts on President Donald Trump’s 2019 State Of The Union address. They’ll dig into what really mattered in the speech and the Democratic response; which statements have traction and which are just rhetoric. As always, you can expect smart analysis, useful insights and the kind of conversation you won’t get anywhere else. Find the special episode in our existing podcast feeds, on our website or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.