We should all have friends like A$AP Rocky’s.
The American rapper, born Rakim Mayers, was arrested in Sweden on suspicion of assault July 3 after an altercation on a Stockholm street, and his detention has become a literal cause célèbre. The husband-and-wife team of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, his former collaborator, have marshaled the support of the White House, and president Donald Trump took to Twitter yesterday (July 19) to agitate on Rocky’s behalf.
It’s not clear how Trump’s involvement will affect Rocky’s case. For his part, Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Lofven said he will not intervene and Rocky remains in jail.
Whatever the details of Rocky’s arrest and incarceration—he was acting in self defense and that he is being held in inhumane conditions, claim a trio of congressmen who are also acting on Rocky’s behalf—he is far from the only US citizen being held overseas under dubious circumstances. At least four Americans are being held in Iran on espionage charges, in conditions likely less salubrious than those in Sweden’s prisons. Others are in Russia and Saudi Arabia. But unlike Rocky, none of them appear to be friends with Kardashian and West. Their families instead have to rely on Go Fund Me campaigns to pay for legal help.
It’s also probably no coincidence that Trump—under fire for his racist tweets about four Democratic congresswomen—is seizing on L’affaire Rocky this week, and portraying it as a matter of national unity. “I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African American community in this country and when I say African American, I think I can really say from everybody in this country, because we’re all one,” Trump said, according to Time.
This isn’t the first time Trump has escalated the overseas arrest of a notable citizen into an affair of state. In 2017, Trump claimed his personal intervention with Chinese president Xi Jinping freed three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting. While there is reason to believe the matter was resolved before Trump waded in, he became indignant when the LaVar Ball, the father of one of the players and himself a minor celebrity, was insufficiently grateful.
It remains to be seen how the Rocky case plays out, and if Trump will claim credit for a favorable outcome. It does seem certain, however, that Rocky and his Swedish legal difficulties will receive far more attention from the president than that of Michael White, a Navy veteran and cancer survivor, sentenced in March to 10 years in Iranian prison.