Donald Trump has said he is working to free the American rapper A$AP Rocky, who has been held in police custody in Sweden for weeks.
“I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky,” Trump tweeted from aboard Air Force One on Friday, and said he had just spoken with Kanye West about Rocky’s situation.
“So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!” Trump said.
Rocky, a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated artist whose real name is Rakim Mayers, has been in police custody since early July as Swedish police investigate his alleged involvement in a fight in Stockholm that occurred before his appearance at a music festival. Videos published on social media appear to show a person being violently thrown onto the ground by Rocky. A defense lawyer has said he acted in self-defense.
Congressman Adriano Espaillat, of New York, has been pushing for the rapper’s release and has been in contact with the state department and the US embassy in Sweden. Rocky is originally from the neighborhood of Harlem in New York City.
The case has earned the attention of a slew of celebrities, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Justin Bieber, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nicki Minaj and Post Malone.
Kim Kardashian West encouraged Trump to take action to free Rocky. Kardashian West has previously worked with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform issues.
One senior administration official, speaking to the Associated Press 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, a supporter of the president.
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 see what 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 US 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 on Thursday.
Rocky’s lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, told the Associated Press that his client was aware of the president’s comments and “is very thankful for everyone who has reached out to show their support”.
“It means a lot to him, but we are focused on the case that we have in front of us,” he added.
Trump did not mention Kardashian West or Kushner to reporters in the Oval Office on Friday and said it was his wife, Melania Trump, who had originally brought the case to his attention.
“She was telling me about, ‘Can you help A$AP Rocky?’” said Trump, who said he had also heard from others.
“Many, many members of the African American community have called me, friends of mine, and said, ‘Could you help?’ So I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky, but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African American community in this country,” he said.
“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 the first lady.
The Ohio pastor Darrell Scott, a longtime Trump supporter who is African American and 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.
“We know that this is a high priority for the president and the state department, at the instruction of the president,” said Kareem Lanier, the co-chair of the Urban Revitalization Coalition who credited the White House with ensuring 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 color, noting the administration had been working on the issue before the latest brouhaha.
They 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 decided on Friday that Rocky would remain in custody another week to allow police to complete their investigation. They have until 25 July.
Jovicic, Rocky’s attorney, said he felt the decision was “unjust”, but remained confident in his case.