IT’S PERFECTLY acceptable — indeed, it is part of the job — for the president of the United States to speak out in instances when U.S. citizens are victims of gross injustice by foreign countries. That, though, is clearly not what is happening with President Trump’s bizarre efforts on behalf of an American rapper arrested in Sweden. Not only has he attempted to bully Swedish officials into influencing independent court proceedings, but also he has displayed galling hypocrisy. That he reacted more angrily to Sweden’s lawful arrest of A$AP Rocky than to Saudi Arabia’s brutal murder of Virginia resident and Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi tells you everything you need to know about the president’s values and priorities.
The 30-year-old singer, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, has been accused of beating a man on a street in Stockholm after an altercation that was captured on video. He and two other men were detained on July 3 and have been in jail since. Sweden doesn’t have a bail system, and usually keeps foreigners accused of crimes in custody because of the flight risk. Mr. Rocky claims self-defense, but authorities allege the victim was punched and kicked while on the ground.
The court will properly decide guilt or innocence. Unfortunately, judicial probity is a concept lost on Mr. Trump. As the case became somewhat of a cause celebre with the help of pop stars including Kanye West, who lobbied the White House, Mr. Trump made a direct appeal to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. Mr. Lofven rightly emphasized to Mr. Trump the independence of the respected Swedish judicial system and said the government cannot influence the legal proceedings. Yet when formal charges were brought, Mr. Trump lashed out on Twitter: “Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Lofven for being unable to act” and “Give A$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. #FreeRocky.”
It is rich to see Mr. Trump complain about justice in Sweden considering the pass — even nod of approval — he regularly gives to the strong-arm justice that is meted out in countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and the Philippines.
And it is really sad that this president doesn’t realize that justice is not transactional. Relations between the two countries don’t matter. Nor does Mr. Rocky’s celebrity or connections. What matters is that Mr. Rocky receive fair treatment under Swedish law. To date, there is no indication that he won’t.