Right now, democracy in the U.S. is delicately balancing atop a pile of potential Ukrainian bribery, congressional partisanship, and a lot of tweets. But all I can think about is A$AP Rocky — and what, if anything, the President is saying about the rapper.
On Wednesday (November 20), Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee. He said that President Donald Trump was absolutely trying to extort the President of Ukraine when he attempted to hold $400 million in military aid hostage so that the country would publicly promise to investigate a potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his family.
Sondland’s testimony countered the closed-door testimony he gave on October 17, in which he said he “never” believed that Trump was engaged in such bribery. But he fell back on that claim a few weeks later by attaching a four-page memo to the transcript of his testimony that was released on November 5, saying that he forgot a lot of what happened because he is “not a note-taker, nor a memo-writer.” His memory was jogged by information he received from the White House and State Department, including information on one call he had with Trump on July 26. He said he was at a restaurant in Kyiv during the 5-minute call and that he and Trump didn’t talk about the Bidens — instead, they “primarily discussed A$AP Rocky.”
“We did not discuss any classified information,” Sondland said. “Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts. It’s true that the President speaks loudly at times and it’s also true I think we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky.”
While it's not clear what about the rapper the two discussed, it's easy to take a guess: On July 25, Rocky and two other men were charged with assault in Sweden, following an alleged altercation with two Swedish nationals. The rapper was jailed and released on August 2, following celebrity-driven outcry and much public spectacle.
At the time, Trump had been pretty vocal about getting Rocky released, tweeting “A$AP Rocky released from prison and on his way home to the United States from Sweden. It was a Rocky Week, get home ASAP A$AP!”
This isn't the first time the phone call about the Long. Live. ASAP artist was mentioned during the impeachment hearings. Bill Taylor, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, shared part of the same story during his public testimony on Wednesday (November 13). He said that one of his aides told him he overheard Sondland talk to Trump on the phone at the restaurant, but didn’t add that the call included any details about A$AP Rocky.
And in a private testimony on Friday (November 15), U.S. Embassy Official David Holmes told impeachment investigators that Sondland believed Rocky "should have pled guilty" in Swedish court. This call has been corroborated by a second official from the Embassy in Kyiv.
Per Holmes's testimony, Sondland believed Trump should "let [Rocky] get sentenced [by Sweden], play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home." The Ambassador also reportedly told Trump the Swedish Prime Minister "should have released [Rocky] on your word." The same day, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that the country liked to keep its politics out of the judicial system; this came after Trump tried to pressure the country on Twitter.
But during the call, the Ambassador tried to soothe Trump. “You can tell the Kardashians you tried," he reportedly said.