Justice is blind except when a Kardashian asks
President Donald Trump has shown repeatedly that he believes that he leads an autocratic government in which his family and friends are treated differently from everyone else.
I’m sure that statement will result in a flood of outraged responses from Trump supporters, as always happens whenever I deem myself worthy to criticize the dear leader. But in support of my contention, I offer the case of A$AP Rocky.
For those who have missed the news, A$AP Rocky, also known as Rakim Mayers, is a rapper from New York who was recently arrested in Sweden. Based upon video evidence showing him and his entourage beating up a passer by on the street, he was charged with assault. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted, although people defendants convicted of this charge in Sweden typically face between six and ten months in prison.
Apparently, the bigger issue is that A$AP Rocky had to cancel tour dates as a result of his detention, something that could cost him as much as $2 million in profits. Never mind that Swedish law allows him to recoup those losses if he is found not guilty, this inconvenience resulted in the rise of a movement to release him from prison that enlisted the support of Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West.
Kanye is one of the few prominent African-Americans who support Trump, having once tweeted
Kim, for her part, has been much more ambivalent about Trump, but she has taken advantage of her relationship with Trump to lobby in favor of much needed criminal justice reform. Having enjoyed some success on that front, she decided to bring up the case of A$AP Rocky to the President.
She could not have hoped for a more enthusiastic reception.
Almost immediately, Trump called the Swedish Prime Minister, demanding that A$AP Rocky be released, and promising to personally vouch for his bail if the rapper is released.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven likely pointed out to Trump that Sweden has no provision for bail, that its constitution prohibits the prime minister from involving himself in criminal matters, and that as a foreign national, the rapper would likely be viewed by the Court as a flight risk. I’m guessing Lofven also suggested that Trump and A$AP Rocky’s other supporters just wait for the Swedish judicial system to act, which it would do in short order.
According to the OECD, the Swedish legal system is fairer and more effective than the American one. Furthermore, Swedish prisons, including the one where A$AP Rocky was held, are downright luxurious compared to ours. As a result, he was treated quite well, and he was protected by due process just as any American would be. If he was innocent of the charges, the Court would find so, and he would be entitled to reimbursement of his lost profits.
Trump, however, did not respond well to the Swedish Prime Minister’s response, tweeting:
Trump’s tweet makes a few assertions that are at best questionable. For instance, as the response by Eugene Scott pointed out, A$AP Rocky is no leader of the African-American community, having disdained that role. Furthermore, I would be interested to know how the United States does more for Sweden than it does for us. Finally, fair treatment involves being granted a fair trial, something he is entitled to in Sweden, not to be released based upon political pressure from the President of the United States.
Indeed, Trump has directed the entire bureaucracy of the United States to intervene on A$AP Rocky’s behalf.
In an unprecedented move, he sent our hostage negotiator to work the Swedish authorities. This is the guy who typically works to release Americans held by terrorists and foreign dictators, not by a country treating him well and granting him a fair trial.
Trump’s intervention is especially rich given his administration’s other policies. He has not granted immigrants due process and has imprisoned them in cages far more inhumane than A$AP Rocky’s prison cell. And in an especially telling action, he has ended the prosecution of police departments accused of unlawfully harassing African-Americans.
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But there is something different about A$AP Rocky’s case from that of ordinary immigrants or Americans mistreated by police: he is rich and famous. These are the currencies that Trump really values, as he has shown again and again.
There are only three possible reasons Trump might have intervened in this case:
- He is looking to gain political points with African-Americans who almost universally oppose him.
- He is looking to gain political points by getting another hostage released that he can brag about.
- He is looking to curry favor with West and the Kardashian family, hoping they will continue to tweet in favor of his re-election.
In each case, Trump is pursuing a personal interest, not looking out for the interests of justice or Americans as a whole. Indeed, it is likely that this incident will damage our relationship with Sweden who has been a strong ally in the past.
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If Trump were simply hoping to see an American treated fairly and justice respected, he would allow the Swedish process to proceed, making sure that it is implemented fairly. As of yet, there are no claims that the Swedes have done anything inappropriate in this case.
So if you are a celebrity with rich and famous friends, Trump will help you. If you can help him score political points, he will help you. But if you are anyone else, you’re out of luck.
If all the people who are neither rich, famous, nor politically popular vote against Trump, he is finished. The question is only whether he will be able to fool enough people to support him despite their lack of fame and power.
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