Ambassador Sondland asked Trump to let 'f***ed' A$AP Rocky get sentenced and then play racism card and give him 'ticker tape parade'
It was not about investigating the Bidens but also the legal issue involving rapper A$AP Rocky that came up during the infamous phone call between President Donald Trump and his European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland on July 26, a key witness testified at the ongoing impeachment hearing before the Congress on Thursday, November 21.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Holmes, who is said to be the one who overheard Trump’s controversial conversation with Sondland, gave his first public testimony about the July 26 call. He overheard the president giving loud instructions to Sondland who he was dining along with other officials at a restaurant in Kyiv at that time.
Top US diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor had said during his testimony earlier this month in the impeachment hearing that a US government staff member had overheard Trump speaking to Sondland a day after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. According to a whistleblower complaint, Trump put pressure on Zelensky to investigate his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s professional dealings in the East European nation on July 25. A day later, Trump allegedly asked Sondland about the investigations.
A$AP Rocky, Kardashians also featured in Trump-Sondland telephonic talks
But it has now been revealed that it was not just the investigation that featured in the Trump-Sondland talks. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and a major donor to the Trump campaign, even spoke to the president about A$AP Rocky, who was in jail in Sweden following a street fight in Stockholm earlier this year.
“The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland's efforts, on behalf of the President, to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden, and I could only hear Ambassador Sondland's side of that part of the conversation,” Holmes told the interrogating lawmakers in a full House.
“'Ambassador Sondland told the President that the rapper was 'kind of f----d there,” and “should have pled guilty,” he said.
Rocky, whose original name is Rakim Mayers, was accused of beating a 19-year-old man in the Swedish capital on June 30, along with two others. He was arrested on July 3 and jailed and the Swedish authorities said his case will follow the legal route when Trump sought to personally intervene. Rocky was later released and returned to the US.
'Let him get sentenced, play racism card': Trump was advised
Sondland even recommended the president to wait until after the sentencing or it would make it worse, Holmes said, adding further Trump was even advised to “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home”.
Trump had tweeted on Rocky’s arrest hours after his call with Zelensky in July, saying: “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”. He even took a dig at the Swedish leadership and accused it of letting the African-American community in the US down.
Holmes also testified about Sondland telling Trump that Sweden should have released the rapper on his words and that he could tell the Kardashians that he tried.
Kardashians reached out to Jared Kushner for Rocky's release
The Kardashians came into the picture because it was just a week before Trump spoke to Zelensky that Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West contacted the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner to try for Rocky’s release. The next day, Kim thanked Trump, Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over their ‘efforts’ to free Rocky.
Holmes, who had diplomatic postings in Russia and India earlier, had a vivid recall of his meeting with Sondland, including what they had as an appetizer. He said he could identify Trump’s voice over the phone as it was “loud”.
The ambassador 'sort of winced and held the phone away from his ear like this,' Holmes said, demonstrating with his own hand shown away from his ear.
On Wednesday, November 20, Sondland also spoke about Rocky during his explosive testimony, saying he was the primary reason for which he spoke with Trump over phone.
On the question of Trump influencing the Ukrainian leadership over the investigation of the Bidens, Holmes said he heard Trump asking Sondland whether Zelensky would carry out the probe to which the ambassador said he would do anything Trump asked him to.