President Donald Trump has caused considerable confusion in Sweden by first requesting “bail” (which does not exist in Sweden) for rapper A$AP Rocky in this assault case and then accusing Sweden of letting “our African American community down” by not freeing him. Trump’s intervention in the case was both highly ill-informed and inappropriate in tying U.S. foreign policy to the handling of a celebrity’s routine criminal case.
The rapper case was raised with Trump by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. The two entertainers seem to continue to enjoy both considerable access and influence over Trump.
According to The New York Times, the rapper was charged with committing an assault causing actual bodily harm last month in Stockholm. The assault was captured on videotape as Rocky (aka Rakim Mayers) and two members of his entourage allegedly assaulted Mustafa Jafari in the street. It would not appear to be a case worthy of presidential attention, let alone intervention.
However, Trump called for a release under bail, which is not available. One would think that before a President took the extraordinary step of intervening in a criminal case, someone would inform him of the laws and process in the country. Trump offered to “vouch” for the rapper for the purposes of bail — a suggestion that led to open ridicule in Europe.
Now that Sweden has declined to grant a bail that does not exist in the country, Trump has raised the case to the level of state-to-state relations: “Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!” It is not clear what Trump is referring to has Sweden’s real crime problem but many took that as a slap at Muslim immigration. Sweden has previously debunked claims of rising crime or its nexus to Muslim immigration.
Trump also tweeted “Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States . . . I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly!”
Of course, that is what a court and a jury decides. Moreover, Sweden is not really supposed to be conducting its criminal justice system to advance the interests of the country diplomatically, assist the “African American community,” or the Kardashians. The case is being handled according to their standard process and laws. Trump’s suggestion that criminal laws should be enforced in light of political considerations is an embarrassment for the country.
Rocky was a former drug dealer who has made prior arrests. In addition to being send briefly to Rikers Island for drug dealing, he was arrested in 2012 for allegedly assault an artist in New York. The following year he allegedly slapped a woman at a music festival (there was later a settlement with the woman).