If the impeachment hearings were a game of MadLibs, they couldn’t be as strange as the real deal. The hearings have featured cameos from the improbable likes of the Kardashian family, Jay Leno, and A$AP Rocky, among others. As the adage goes, the truth is stranger than fiction, yet the story of how these celebrities factor into the proceedings defies belief. A$AP Rocky, in particular, has been namechecked at least five times—and that’s just during U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony. Here’s what you need to know about where the rapper factors into this complicated web of international intrigue.
Today, State Department official David Holmes testified in his opening statement about the efforts of U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland (on behalf of President Donald Trump) to assist A$AP Rocky, a rapper jailed in Sweden this summer. Doubling down on his claims from a previous closed-door deposition, Holmes described a phone call he overheard between Sondland and Trump, in which Sondland told the president that Rocky was “kind of fucked there” and “should have pled guilty.” Sondland reportedly recommended that the President “wait until after the sentencing or it will make it worse,” and that the President should “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.”
Holmes also claimed Sondland told Trump that Sweden “should have released him on your word,” and that he fulfilled his apparent duty to the Kardashians, saying, “you can tell the Kardashians you tried.” Holmes also brought Jay Leno into the fold, testifying that he was a guest at a June dinner that Sondland hosted for the new Ukrainian president.
A$AP Rocky also played a surprising role in yesterday’s testimony from Sondland himself. In his testimony on Wednesday, Sondland described a phone call he had with President Donald Trump on July 26, at which time he was sitting in a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine. Sondland claimed not to remember the specifics of the five-minute phone call, but said he “had no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations” into Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election. Sondland also noted that he would have been “more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned [Ukraine] investigations.”
The express purpose for the call, however, according to Sondland, was to strategize about how to handle A$AP Rocky’s arrest in Sweden. Back in June, A$AP Rocky was in Stockholm, Sweden, and got into an altercation with 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari. Rocky threw Jafari to the ground, where he punched and kicked him—an act he pleaded was in self-defense—leaving the man bleeding and needing medical attention. The judge ruled against Rocky, saying that “the defendants were not entitled to use violence in self-defense.”
Rocky and two members of his entourage were seen as flight risks, so they ended up serving nearly a month in Swedish custody until the trial was over. During this time, Kanye West, and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, asked President Trump for help releasing Rocky from jail—which is when Trump called the Swedish prime minister, and later, tasked Robert O’Brien with keeping tab on Rocky’s trial. Even though O’Brien threatened “negative consequences” if the Swedish government didn’t release Rocky, officials stayed out of the case, and the rapper and co. were released to go home on August 2. Trump celebrated Rocky’s release on Twitter.
If you had A$AP Rocky and the Kardashians on your impeachment bingo card, congratulations–you might just make a bingo after this week’s hearings. If not, that means your brain hasn’t been melted into a puddle of political non sequiturs by this administration just yet, in which case, we salute you.