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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Brooke Rollins on Thursday to discuss the prison and sentencing reform package being negotiated between the White House and members from both parties, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting tell Axios.

The big picture: Trump privately told senators and aides he liked the sound of a compromise that would add sentencing reforms pushed by Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to the prison reform bill the House passed earlier this year. "I don't care about the politics; if it's the right thing to do than we should do it," Trump told a group of Senators when they briefed him on the plan earlier this month, according to a source familiar with the situation.

But law-and-order hardliner Sen. Tom Cotton has lambasted the Grassley plan; Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quietly working against it; and Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Republican leadership, told reporters on Wednesday that there wouldn't be a vote before midterms.

What to watch: Whether Trump publicly endorses the compromise package once it's finalized. If Republicans remain divided over the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't bring it to the floor with ongoing judicial nominations and the upcoming spending bill. A Trump endorsement is powerful and could be enough to win over uncertain Republicans and unite the party around the bill.

The opposition: Cotton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week calling the compromise plan "a jailbreak that would endanger communities and undercut President Trump's campaign promise to restore law and order."

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also consistently opposed sentencing reform efforts. He wrote a letter to Grassley early this year tearing apart the Senator's criminal justice reform bill.
  • Yes, but: Trump loathes Sessions and won't care what he has to say. And while Cotton's office told Axios that he has spoken with other members who support his view, the other usual outspoken opponents of sentencing reform such as Sen. David Perdue have been quiet thus far.
  • Not all Democrats are convinced either. 2020 hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have expressed some concern that the bill still doesn't go far enough to address harsh penalties for low-level offenses.
  • Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden, who works closely with the White House and Congress, told Axios, "Senator Cotton's claims are inaccurate. The proposed reforms will make the system more just and increase public safety. For years, Cotton and others have claimed that long sentences are what keeps communities safe, even for nonviolent offenders. There is no real data that supports that claim." 
  • Koch Industries groups as well as other conservative groups have sent a letter to Trump advocating for the bill.

In the White House, Jared Kushner, assistant to president Brooke Rollins and special assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Ja'Ron Smith have been working with Sens. Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, Tim Scott, members of the Judiciary Committee, law enforcement and conservative movement leaders to reach a compromise and get legislation passed.

Go deeper: Trump gives criminal justice reform a chance in the Senate

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.