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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

Brazil's health minister tests positive for COVID during UN summit in N.Y.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga in Brasilia, Brazil, in May. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queirog has tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), he confirmed Tuesday night.

Why it matters: Hours earlier, Queirog had accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the UNGA. The Biden administration expressed concern last week that the gathering of world leaders could become a coronavirus "superspreader event."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's 2018 reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The suit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges NYT journalists "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that they "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.