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Trump’s Final Hours in Office Were Consumed With Fury at Snoop Dogg


In the final three days of his presidency, Donald Trump had something weighing heavily on his mind, causing him to reverse decisions rapidly as he sweared angrily in the White House.

The source of the then-outgoing president’s anger had nothing to do with his failed attempts to subvert the 2020 election results, or the incoming president, Joe Biden. It was about Snoop Dogg, the man this magazine once dubbed, “America’s Most Lovable Pimp.”

While the famous rapper and actor recently made headlines discussing his “love and respect” for the ex-president, he bitterly feuded with Trump early on in his presidency, before his feelings softened. In late 2020 and early 2021, Snoop Dogg secretly worked to influence the White House on executive clemency for federal prisoners — including for the rapper’s close friend and Death Row Records figure, Michael “Harry-O” Harris.

Snoop Dogg’s old words had inflamed Trump all over again by the early evening of Jan. 18, 2021, the same day that Trump taped a farewell address to the country. At the time, just weeks after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the federal government was preparing for a heavily militarized transfer of power from Trump to Biden. And yet, the rapper’s insults still managed to loom large in the Oval Office.

“Well, fuck him,” Trump moaned about Snoop Dogg in the closing days of his term, according to a former administration official and another person who heard him say it.

With just hours left before Biden’s inauguration, Trump’s renewed fury at the rapper set off a frenzied effort both in and outside of the White House to convince Trump that Snoop Dogg wasn’t, in fact, mad at him anymore. The effort lasted almost literally until the final minute of the presidency. Failure to move Trump would have cost the freedom of one of the co-founders of the legendary hip-hop record label Death Row Records, who at the time had been behind bars for three decades.

This account — based on Rolling Stone’s interviews with former Trump administration and campaign officials, sources close to the ex-president and 2024 GOP frontrunner, and activists and others who worked with the Trump White House — offers yet another strange glimpse into Trump’s haphazard and mercurial decision-making, his volcanic desire for retribution and vindictiveness, and his chronic obsession with celebrities and A-list gossip. 

These traits, which Trump has kept at the fore in times of historic crises and even during presidential deliberations on airstrikes and warfare, have long defined his public life, and will surely help define what awaits the country if he returns to the Oval Office in 2025.

Near the end of Trump’s administration, Snoop Dogg and several others had been working diligently behind the scenes for weeks to secure a presidential commutation for Death Row Records co-founder and ex-kingpin Harry-O. The inmate had previously and repeatedly failed to win an early release, after being locked up for decades on cocaine trafficking-related and attempted murder charges.

“Over 30 years ago, I was part of the problem. However, over the years I have repeatedly proven myself to be part of the solution,” Harris told the Daily Mail in 2019. Harris was imprisoned at Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc, the site of a much-publicized Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, where he was scheduled for release in late 2028.

Death Row Records had once signed Snoop Dogg, along with other giants of rap music in the 1990s. In December 2020, the influential rap artist began working with criminal-justice reform activists, who had their own connections to the Trump inner circle, to push for the early release of his friend, Harry-O. According to multiple people familiar with the matter, Ivanka Trump was a driving force in pushing Harris’ petition in her father’s West Wing.

On the afternoon of Jan. 18, 2021, this reporter detailed the secret clemency campaign at The Daily Beast.

“Snoop brought this case to me, and I brought Alice Johnson, [who was pardoned by Trump], on board to help it with me, and she brought it to the West Wing,” activist Weldon Angelos, formerly a music producer and an ex- federal prisoner who received his own pardon from Trump, told The Daily Beast. “In the past, the president has given her the ability to select cases. And she doesn’t get [clemency for] all of them… But with Mr. Harris, she is not taking no for an answer.”

Johnson said at the time: “The president knows about it. I’ve spoken with Ivanka [Trump] and I’ve spoken with Jared [Kushner], and I’ve been told that President Trump is aware of the case and has been reviewing it. I’ve spoken to [White House chief of staff] Mark Meadows about it, and he said he’d take a look at it.”

She very nearly got “no” for an answer.

The Daily Beast article included a short contextual reference about how Snoop Dogg “has never hid his negative opinions about Trump,” reading:

“I don’t give a fuck, I tell ’em straight up, motherfucker: If you like that nigga, you motherfuckin’ racist,” Snoop Dogg said about Trump, his MAGA fans, and the president’s pal Kanye West in 2018. “Fuck you and fuck him. Now what?” In March 2017, Trump had tweeted, “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!” (Trump was referring to a music video — in which Snoop aims a toy gun at a clown who looks like the 45th U.S. president — that had clearly gotten the leader of the free world worked up.)

That paragraph caught the attention of certain individuals and administration officials close to Trump, several of whom were extremely skeptical of his past embrace of moderate criminal justice reforms and some of the clemencies he had granted in his term. At least one Trump aide quickly started googling for other derogatory, profanity-laden Snoop Dogg quotes that were directed at the 45th U.S. president. The examples were compiled, and some of these officials personally saw to it that Trump was shown how the rapper had felt about him in recent years.

This immediately enraged the Republican president, who had apparently forgotten about the depths of Snoop Dogg’s past hatred. 

Suddenly, Trump didn’t feel the rapper deserved an act of kindness or mercy. The clemency paperwork for Harris had already been drafted, and his name was on the roster of expected pardons and commutations that the White House planned to announce the day of Biden’s inauguration.

On Jan. 18, 2021, Trump instructed aides to remove Harris’ name from the list and to junk his paperwork, in order to punish Snoop Dogg, two former administration officials and another two sources familiar with the matter say.

It didn’t take long for word to leak out that Harris’ release was imperiled, and for such a monumentally petty reason. Criminal justice reform advocates, who had been working the Trump administration for pardons and commutations for Harris and numerous others, began frantically calling in favors and contacting senior Trump aides and family members, hoping to convince the outgoing president that Snoop Dogg didn’t loathe him anymore. In fact, Snoop, who once roasted Trump at a Comedy Central event in 2011, had warmed to him quite a bit, in part due to some of Trump’s commutations and pardons.

This set off a mad dash — “it was chaos,” says a former White House official — to rescue the Harry-O clemency. 

Some activists contacted those who knew Snoop Dogg, warning that Trump’s temper had stalled, and maybe killed, Harris’ chances at clemency on the last day of Trump’s White House term. Ideas that were kicked around included asking Snoop Dogg to post something positive about Trump on Twitter or Instagram. Maybe he could profusely apologize to the then-president, publicly or in private? Something — anything — to appease the temperamental politician and former game-show host.

No one close to the rapper thought any of that was likely or doable. Snoop Dogg didn’t want to feud with Trump any longer, but he didn’t want to come off as a toady, either. There was, however, a Plan B. 

Angelos and others were in the midst of shooting a documentary that chronicled their mission to get an early release for Harris, the Death Row Records co-founder. They had unreleased footage of Snoop Dogg saying complimentary things about Trump. Perhaps someone could get that to the White House, and if somebody could show it to Trump, maybe that would calm him down and save the clemency effort, the activists and their allies in the administration hoped.

“I was aware that the [Daily Beast] article caused a problem for Mr. Harris’ clemency petition, and I was asked by someone close to the White House to send a clip of a previously recorded message from Snoop where he commended Trump’s efforts on criminal justice reform,” Angelos confirmed to Rolling Stone. “The campaign to free Harry-O was recorded for documentary purposes.”

Trump was indeed shown the documentary footage, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, and a handful of senior administration officials who still had Trump’s ear and trust after the Jan. 6 riot personally vouched for Harris and Snoop in the hectic final moments of Trump’s term.

The president said he appreciated what he saw as Snoop Dogg’s sincerity and plaudits, the source with direct knowledge and a former Trump official say. About 24 hours before he was to step down from power, Trump instructed his advisers to re-add Harris’ name to the pardon and commutations list.

Before the evening of Jan. 19, 2021, Harris had gotten word that, very soon, he’d be a free man — and Snoop Dogg was celebrating.

Shortly after midnight on the last day of Trump’s term, his White House staff publicly announced a list of nearly 150 names for commutations and federal pardons. Among those listed were Harris (who received a commuted sentence), Trump’s former top strategist and White House adviser Steve Bannon, rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, and former prominent Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. The list was the culmination of a massive clemency push, which often benefited powerful figures who aggressively leveraged their personal connections to Trump and his inner sanctum.

Now, more than three years later, Snoop Dogg hasn’t endorsed Trump 2024, and those close to him say they would be stunned if he ever did. But in an interview published last month by London’s Sunday Times, the rapper declared: “I have nothing but love and respect for Donald Trump.”

The Trump presidential campaign took note. And this time, Trump aides weren’t collecting samples of Snoop Dogg’s words to infuriate Trump or turn him against the former Trump critic. Instead, the former (and perhaps future) president’s team are now boasting about Snoop Dogg’s opinions.

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Late last month, the Trump campaign blasted out an email to the media flagging some “Important Articles and Posts from President Trump.” The message included a line on how “Snoop Dogg Now Says He Has ‘Nothing But Love and Respect’ for Donald Trump” — sandwiched between notes such as “Trump Leading Biden By More Than He Ever Has Before” and “15 Facts About E. Jean Carroll’s [Sexual Assault] Allegations Against Trump the Media Don’t Want You to Know.”

Trump and his campaign staff apparently liked Snoop’s praise so much that two days later, they sent another press blast about how “Snoop Dogg Vows ‘Nothing but Love and Respect’ for Donald Trump.”



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