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WASHINGTON – Rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West spent a stunning and surreal half hour talking to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, surrounded by White House aides, reporters and former NFL star Jim Brown.
Wearing a red "Make America Great Again" Trump campaign hat, West, sometimes using profanity, expounded on topics ranging from prison reform to his mental health and from presidential airplanes to racism.
He boasted of his financial success, praised Trump, and told the room that he had been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder, when he was in fact merely sleep-deprived.
Speaking about his Trump campaign hat, West said it gave him a feeling of masculine energy.
"They tried to scare me not to wear this hat, but it gives some power in some way ... when I put this hat on, you made me Superman ... a Superman cape I can wear," West told Trump.
He also raised the case of imprisoned Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover, who is serving six life sentences in the supermax ADX Florence prison in Florence, Colorado, a facility that also holds Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber."
During an extended soliloquy about prison reform, West called the 13th Amendment's allowance for unpaid prison labor a "trap-door" into slavery.
"There's a lot of things affecting our mental health that make us do crazy things that put us back into that trap door called the 13th Amendment," he said. "I did say abolish with the [MAGA] hat on. Because why would you keep something around that's a trap door? If you're building a floor, the Constitution is the base of our industry, right, of our country, of our company. Would you build a trap door, that if you mess up and accidentally something happens, you fall and you end up next to the Unabomber?"
Several of West's other points were made similarly, with a mix of free association, metaphors and slogans. At one point, after showing Trump what he said was a hydrogen-powered airplane, West said the president's political opponents should help to make Trump look good on the international stage. This quickly morphed into a point about American manufacturing, which ended up being a point about prison labor.
"If he don't look good, we don't look good. This is our president," West said. "He has to be the freshest, the flyest, [have] the flyest planes, the best factories. And we have to make our core be empowered. We have to bring jobs into America, because our best export is entertainment ideas. But when we make everything in China and not in America, we're cheating on our country. We're putting people in a position to have to do illegal things, to end up in the cheapest factory ever, the prison system."
West continued much like this for nearly a half hour as the rest of the room, Trump included, stared on in silence. West is arguably Trump's most high-profile black supporter. However, he did not vote for Trump, he has said, because he didn't vote at all in 2016.
On Thursday, West rejected the idea that Trump's incendiary and divisive comments about race and immigrants leave him undeserving of support from black Americans.
"A liberal would try to control a black person through the concept of racism, because we know we're very proud emotional people," West said. "So when I said I like Trump to like someone who is liberal, they'll say, 'Oh, but he's racist.' You think racism can control me? Oh, that don't stop me. That's an invisible wall."
It was unclear what, if any, tangible results would come of Trump's meeting and later his lunch with West and Brown. Though the meeting was originally billed as an opportunity to discuss criminal justice reform, toward the end of the meeting, Trump stood up at his desk and insisted the event was merely a friendly lunch "with two people that I like."
"And I guess they like me. We're going to have lunch," Trump added.
With that, West stood up and hugged the president.
"I love this guy," West said.