You should read all of this one, if only to appreciate the full cast of characters. My favorite is “Hassan Muhammad,” who describes himself as a “fixer” in the entertainment industry but appears to have no online presence and wouldn’t tell Yahoo News who his contacts are. Yet somehow he ended up in the middle of an international incident involving Trump and the Swedish criminal justice system.
Because of course he did. We’re talking about a guy in POTUS who hired Michael Cohen as his personal lawyer and partnered with a sleaze merchant like David Pecker at the National Enquirer against his personal enemies. Muhammad would have to be guilty of murder to be too shady for the White House to deal with him.
His role in this case was as a go-between. A$AP Rocky and his managers worried that he’d end up doing time in Sweden for the assault charge he was facing after an altercation with a fan. Muhammad knew Darrell Scott, a pastor and Trump ally, and put Rocky’s team in touch with him in hopes that Trump could pull some strings with the Swedish government on Rocky’s behalf. I’ll see what I can do, Scott told them, but on one condition: If Rocky ends up with no jail time, he has to thank Trump publicly. The whole point of this cause celebre from the White House’s standpoint, after all, was to earn goodwill with black voters. Trump had already championed criminal justice reform and was planning to tout that fact next fall; coming to the aid of a black celebrity in a high-profile dispute with a foreign country would only underscore his commitment to fairer treatment for black suspects. If nothing else, the Rocky matter could be used to blunt attacks that Trump is a racist.
All Rocky needed to do was thank Trump afterward to make sure black voters understood how significant a role the president had played. “If a serial killer gets Rocky out of jail, I would have no problem saying thank you to the serial killer,” Rocky’s manager allegedly told Scott. So Scott dialed up Jared Kushner and set the gears in motion. You know what happened next. Trump dispatched members of the U.S. diplomatic corps to intervene (or try to intervene) in Rocky’s case and went as far as to complain publicly that Sweden refused to grant special treatment to an American prisoner upon the president’s request, above and beyond what anyone expected of him in this matter.
And yet, through it all, Team Rocky remained curiously mum.
Scott and Lanier believed Damien Granderson, an attorney working for Rocky, was too “nonchalant” about the news that Trump was lobbying on the rapper’s behalf. Lanier said he “snapped” at Granderson and cursed him out.
“I was like, man, you ungrateful motherf***ers, you. I can’t believe you. … We didn’t ask you guys for nothing other than for you guys to be grateful,” Lanier said he told him. “We just want you guys to be appreciative and say thank you.”
Trump didn’t let their silence deter him. He kept pushing for Rocky’s freedom, even guaranteeing that the rapper wouldn’t be a flight risk if granted bail. In the end the pressure worked: Rocky was convicted but his sentence involved no jail time. He was free! And so the time came for Scott’s special request to be honored.
Then the comedy began.
When they got Ehmann on the phone, Scott said the rapper’s manager “started making all these excuses” about Rocky needing time to travel and “rest.” Scott said he told Ehmann, “I hope you guys aren’t going back on what you said you were going to do.”
On the day of his release, Rocky put a post on Instagram thanking fans and friends who supported him.
Scott dismissed this as “generic” and kept pressing Ehmann about when Rocky would do something specifically thanking the White House. Scott said it was “embarrassing” to have to tell Kushner, who reached out to him after Rocky’s release, that they had no communication from the rapper.
According to Lanier, Ehmann promised to put a Kushner-Rocky call together within “48 hours.” But then Lanier said Ehmann stopped “returning our text messages.”
Rocky later posted another general thank-you to the public for their support, again omitting the White House. How come? Scott told Yahoo News that he thinks it’s due to the “herd mentality” of the black community, in which it’s forbidden to give Trump credit for anything. Eh, I don’t know: One of Rocky’s celebrity patrons in this matter was Kanye West, the biggest star in hip-hop and a man so chummy with Trump that he’s worn a MAGA hat during a meeting with the president in the Oval Office. If Kanye can maintain his cultural stature after all that, surely Rocky could get away with an anodyne statement thanking the president for helping to secure his release. Especially since Trump really did go to the mat for him. He didn’t farm this out to some under-under-undersecretary; he allegedly placed a call himself to Sweden’s prime minister to plead Rocky’s case. We’re talking presidential diplomacy to an unusual, even inappropriate degree. And still, nothing from Rocky.
I’m honestly curious: What gives? Does he just hate Trump so much that he couldn’t bring himself to give credit where it’s due after receiving personal assistance from the president? It’s bizarre.