The Democrats' impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump were a spectacle unlike any other seen before, and they have made two things unmistakably clear. One, the president was assuredly trying to leverage the power of the United States government to get the president of Ukraine to help the Trump 2020 campaign gather opposition research. And two, Trump relies on and is deeply beholden, policy-wise, to two unofficial advisers: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is a complete idiot; and Kim Kardashian, who is not.
Don't believe me? Let's roll the tape, beloveds.
On Thursday, David Holmes, the American career diplomat stationed in Kyiv, was called to testify because he overheard a phone conversation between Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., and Trump in which the two men essentially confirmed the existence of the quid pro quo the president has been denying. He then explained that the secondary purpose of the call he overheard was for Sondland to console Trump over his failure to secure ASAP Rocky's release from a Swedish prison, where the rapper faced assault charges.
Sondland, who in earlier testimony had confirmed speaking to Trump about Rocky during the call, reportedly told Trump that Rocky was (in Holmes' words) “effed” and went on to console the president by saying, “You can tell the Kardashians you tried.” Both Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West, had lobbied for ASAP Rocky’s release when he was jailed and Kardashian thanked Trump on Twitter after her involvement became known, writing, among other things, “Your commitment to justice reform is so appreciated.”
But the invocation of Kim Kardashian — and the president's reliance on her counsel — isn’t necessarily as crazy as it sounds on its surface.
Kardashian has undergone a subtle but noticeable shift over the last few years toward speaking on topics far less superficial than in the past. For instance, Kardashian wrote a personal post in 2014, almost a year after the birth of her daughter, that detailed how having a mixed race child shed light for her both on the realities of racism and on the importance of her speaking out about it, obliquely referring to the murder of transgender teen Larry King, Malala Yousafzai and Trayvon Martin. Another time, she used Twitter in 2015 to ask “#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!” while also advocating for greater gun control.
Get the think newsletter.
Back then, Kardashian wasn’t taken very seriously, but in more recent years, she has proved to be sincerely dedicated to using her platform to advocate for social justice causes of her choosing, and she is studying to become a lawyer. And while I have expressed mixed feelings about her working with the Trump administration — perhaps someone of her stature should not be lending legitimacy to a repugnant bigot who doesn’t deserve the office he tripped his way into — even I can acknowledge that she has been effective.
Alice Marie Johnson did not deserve a life-in-prison sentence over a nonviolent drug conviction, but the reality is, if not for the lobbying of Kardashian, Trump would have never commuted the sentence. Johnson herself called her release a “miracle.” The same can be said of the criminal justice reform bill for which she advocated and which was recently signed into law — an occasion marked by Kardashian delivering remarks on its passage at the White House.
And that's not even to mention the fact that the House of Representatives finally passed legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide, a cause for which Kardashian has been advocating for years. It has been blocked in the Senate because of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — a staunch Trump fan and ally, so one suspects Kardashian has plenty of pull there, too.
And surely, the stay of execution of Rodney Reed, which Kardashian helped bring awareness to, can also be laid at least partially at her feet. Kardashian was with Reed at the time when he found out his execution in Texas was delayed.
In many ways, Kim Kardashian is essentially another Rudy Giuliani in the Trump administration, if Rudy knew what he was doing. Say what you will about Kardashian, but she’s not as big a goof as “America’s Mayor.”
Case in point: In Holmes’ opening statement, he said: “At one point during a preliminary meeting of the [Ukrainian] inauguration delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, ‘Dammit, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and 'effs' everything up.'”
Sondland's assessment appears to be accurate. Giuliani's plethora of ill-advised television appearances and his equally terrible antics on social media has caused an outpouring of essays lamenting the clownish Trump errand boy he’s become. And all of that was before it was revealed during the impeachment hearings that it was Giuliani's advice and machinations that led the president to push for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine for being too upstanding a public servant to participate in his schemes; it was Giuliani who convinced the president that Ukraine is hiding the Democratic National Committee's email servers (it's not); and it was Giuliani who convinced the president that they could push the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden's son and help the 2020 campaign.
And that's just the serious stuff. It has also been reported that, less than a month after he was named Trump’s cybersecurity adviser in 2017, Giuliani walked into an Apple store in downtown San Francisco looking for help unlocking his iPhone — a significant cybersecurity violation, as Giuliani is known to use it to conduct business on behalf of the president. And that is now one of the least embarrassing stories about Giuliani, king of the butt dials, since Trump became president.
I have no idea how history will look at this week, but when I think about the silliest aspect of this entire House impeachment inquiry, it’s the juxtaposition between what was said in the hearing Thursday about Kim Kardashian, whose opprobrium the president apparently fears, and Rudy Giuliani, whose actions in Ukraine are directly responsible for where we are as a nation.
In many ways, the results of Kim Kardashian’s advocacy for prison reform and the unfairly incarcerated is by and large the only positive result of the nightmare that is President Donald Trump. That is in no way an endorsement of Trump, and it's not encouragement for others to work with someone I find to be a madman. However, it does prove that a reality star’s involvement in politics doesn’t have to be dangerous and disastrous.
That is, it doesn't have to be disastrous so long as you keep your corrupt cronies and terrible diplomats away from the corridors of power, and maybe listen to people who know what they're talking about, like Kim Kardashian, instead of ones who don't, like Rudy Giuliani.