Urged on by the first lady and celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is trying to help free rapper A$AP Rocky, who has been held in police custody in Sweden for weeks.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said that he’d been alerted to the case by African American supporters, as well as by his wife.
“We’ll be talking to them,” Trump said, referring to Swedish officials. “We’ve already started.”
“We’re working with the State Department, and we hope to get him home soon,” added first lady Melania Trump.
Rocky, a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated artist whose real name is Rakim Mayers, has been behind bars since early this month as Swedish police investigate a fight he was allegedly involved in in Stockholm before appearing at a music festival. It was not clear who else was involved, but videos published on social media appear to show a person being violently thrown onto the ground by Rocky. A defense lawyer has said it was self-defense.
The case has earned the attention of a slew of celebrities, including recording artist and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs; singer Justin Bieber; singer Shawn Mendes; actress Jada Pinkett Smith; Kardashian West’s mother, reality star Kris Jenner; singer Nicki Minaj; and rapper Post Malone, as well as Kardashian West, who has worked with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform issues.
One senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to outline private conversations, said Kardashian West had reached out to Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, whom she has worked with closely, to tell him about the situation on behalf of her husband, Kanye West, a supporter of the president’s.
Kushner then briefed Trump, according to the official, who said Trump felt the case was worth looking into, and directed his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to try to move Rocky to better holding conditions and see what else could be done.
The State Department said Friday that it was following the case but declined to provide details, citing privacy considerations. Providing assistance to U.S. citizens detained abroad is one of the department’s most important functions, it said.
Kardashian West thanked Trump, Pompeo and Kushner via Twitter, along with “everyone involved with the efforts to Free ASAP Rocky & his two friends.”
“Your commitment to justice reform is so appreciated,” she wrote Thursday.
Trump did not mention Kardashian West or Kushner to reporters in his comments Friday and said it was his wife who had originally brought the case to his attention.
“She was telling me about, ‘Can you help A$AP Rocky?’” said Trump, who said he’d also heard from others.
“Many, many members of the African American community have called me, friends of mine, and said, ‘Could you help?’ So I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky, but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African American community in this country,” he said.
Ohio pastor Darrell Scott, a black longtime Trump supporter who has worked with the administration on urban justice issues, said he was among those who raised the issue with Trump last Friday night after Rocky’s management reached out for assistance.
“OK, I’ll look into it,” he said Trump responded.
“We know that this is a high priority for the president and the State Department, at the instruction of the president,” said Kareem Lanier, co-chair of the Urban Revitalization Coalition who credited the White House with ensuring A$AP Rocky was moved to better holding conditions.
Both Lanier and Scott rejected the idea that Trump was calling attention to the issue to distract from criticism of his attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of colour, noting the administration had been working on the issue before the latest brouhaha and applauded Trump for shining attention on the issue.
“Any time President Trump gets involved in anything, it brings a level of attention” to an issue that cannot be matched by those who “don’t have that cache or reach,” Lanier said.
Stockholm’s District Court said Friday that A$AP Rocky would remain in custody six more days because they fear he is a flight risk, while prosecutors complete their investigation into the case. They have until July 25.
His lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, did not immediately respond to a request Friday.
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