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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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A West Virginia man contacted a top Trump aide last summer to try to broker a meeting between campaign advisers and Russian officials that would focus on their “shared Christian values,” CNN reported Monday.

Those new details build out our understanding of a June 2016 email from Rick Dearborn, a onetime senior aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who now serves as deputy White House chief of staff, to other campaign aides that was recently unearthed by congressional investigators.

There are several degrees of separation between Trump and the individual requesting the meeting, who remains unidentified. Rick Clay, a West Virginia resident and former Iraq War contractor, reached out to Dearborn on behalf of an unnamed friend asking if the campaign would be interested in sitting down with Russian officials. While those officials were not named, Clay told CNN they were “lower level” people rather than those in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

“The thought was if there was an opportunity there to get two sides together to talk about Christian values, then that’s important,” Clay told CNN, describing his friend as a devout Christian who had worked alongside Russians at Christian aide organizations. “That was the gist of it, and it didn’t go anywhere.”

Clay told the news outlet that Dearborn did not act on the request, instead telling him it needed to be directed through the “proper channels” at the State Department.

Yet Dearborn did flag the request from Clay, who he identified as “WV, in an email to other officials on the Trump campaign, as CNN previously reported.

The White House did not respond to the network’s requests for comment. But one of Trump’s personal lawyers, Ty Cobb, said in a statement that it was “salacious speculation” to suggest that Dearborn did anything wrong. Cobb also affirmed that the White House was fully cooperating with all requests related to the various investigations into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

Other Trump campaign aides, including national security adviser George Papadopoulus, made more direct efforts to arrange sit-downs between senior level staffers and Russian officials.

Some in-person contacts were made, though Papadopoulus did not appear to play a role in arranging them. Several Trump campaign officials met with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, at various points over the course of the 2016 race. The President’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., also hosted a rendezvous at Trump Tower with Russian operatives who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, the same month that Dearborn sent his email to campaign colleagues.

Pictured above: Trump deputy chief of staff for policy, Rick Dearborn, left, and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, right, walk down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, following a meeting. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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A steady stream of leaked screenshots from the now-defunct chat server used to organize attendees at this month’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally shows that the white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia were well-organized and came with the intention of committing brutal violence.

Unicorn Riot, a volunteer nonprofit media outlet, received hundreds of chat transcripts from the app Discord through an anonymous source, and has been publishing them in edited batches since the Aug. 12 rally. Eli Mosley, one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally, told Wired that the screenshots of the chats appeared to be legitimate.

In some of the chats, posters shared photographs of themselves mugging with semi-automatic weapons or homemade shields. In others, they discussed the ideal thickness of PVC pipes that could be used for “thumping” counter-protesters and shared GoFundMe links urging like-minded people to fund their road trips to Charlottesville.

Most strikingly, a number of posts joked about plowing cars into crowds of peaceful protesters. James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly killed one such counter-protester, Virginia native Heather Heyer, and injured at least 19 others when he rammed his Dodge Charger down a crowded street at the height of the rally.

A lawyer for two counter-protesters hurt at the rally told Wired that the chats could be used to bolster their case against 28 groups and individuals involved, including organizer Jason Kessler. The transcripts demonstrated the premeditated intention to commit “violence and mayhem,” attorney Timothy Litzenburg told Wired, saying that they could serve as “the crux of the case.”

Many of the white nationalist leaders and groups who marched through the center of Charlottesville have shirked blame for the violence over the past two weeks, insisting they acted out against counter-protesters only in self-defense and actually were the victims of so-called “alt-left” and antifa.

But photographs and video of that afternoon show large groups of men wearing neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan regalia and bearing firearms, PVC pipes, weighted flagpoles, cans of teargas and shields. Fields and at least one other “Unite the Right” participant, white nationalist radio personality Christopher Cantwell, have been arrested for violent acts against counter-demonstrators.

Discord has since deleted the chats as well as several servers tied to the Charlottesville organizers, pledging to “take action against white supremacy, nazi ideology, and all forms of hate.” A number of other major technology and social media companies, including PayPal, Facebook, Squarespace, Patreon, GoDaddy and Spotify have taken similar steps to boot users affiliated with white nationalist or other hate groups.

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During his rocky seven-month tenure as a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka did little of note beyond his punchy and frequent media appearances, in which the self-styled counterterrorism expert swiftly dismissed any item that painted the President in an unflattering light as “fake news.”

Since his ouster on Friday, Gorka has been on a media blitz of a different type. In interviews with outlets as varied as the BBC and Breitbart News, the former White House aide offered harsher words for the administration than he’s allowed previously, acknowledging that the “Make America Great Again” platform on which Trump won the presidency is so far unfulfilled.

The critical tenor of his remarks may have been prompted in part by the terms of his departure. The White House said he was removed, while Gorka insisted he left of his own accord. But his interview talking points were ripped straight from the fiery resignation letter he shared with the press on Friday, in which he assailed “forces” inside the administration bent on betraying the “MAGA promise.”

Fittingly, his first interview went to Breitbart, where he previously served as national security editor and where he says he now plans to return in some capacity.

“On key issues, we’ve done great things, but unfortunately, those who don’t believe in many of those things are now at the helm in key places and we have to make sure that they maintain the MAGA doctrine and we’re going to be doing that right now,” Gorka told reporter Matthew Boyle in an interview on Breitbart Radio.

According to Gorka, Trump campaigned and won on a “very simple platform” redolent of Ronald Reagan’s: fixing the economy, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and defeating the Islamic State terrorist group.

“Unfortunately, I don’t want to go into the palace intrigue stuff—had too much of that—but the fact is, the forces of MAGA, the Make America Great Again faces, the policy people like [ousted chief strategist] Steve Bannon, my old boss inside the White House, have been systematically undermined,” Gorka said.

He’s not wrong: More traditional, moderate figures in the White House have sought to consolidate control over the chaotic administration in recent weeks. Retired Gen. John Kelly helped push Bannon out shortly after becoming Trump’s chief of staff, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster dismissed several National Security Council staffers with fringe views.

Gorka and his allies see that purge as a fundamental betrayal, as he told Newsmax host Steve Malzberg in a Saturday interview on talk radio station WMAL.

“The agenda is losing steam within the building,” Gorka said, insisting that the President told him in a phone conversation that day that he remained “committed” to enacting it. In the interview, Gorka lashed out repeatedly at the “swamp establishment” and “anti-MAGA clique” inside the White House.

“We have to help him to make sure that no one undermines him staying on course,” he told WMAL. “We’re going to have to box them in and were going to have to remind them that the American people spoke, that we are not going to be an interventionist nation.”

He made similar points in an interview with the BBC, calling Trump’s victory a “hostile takeover of establishment politics” that “un-Trumpian” forces were trying to undermine.

“There’s no conspiracy theory here and there’s no central leader. They are individuals who if you look at their career they clearly would have been very comfortable working for Hillary Clinton in her cabinet,” Gorka insisted.

The first leg of Gorka’s personal “#MAGA” tour also featured him saying the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” as often as possible. Gorka complained to Breitbart and WMAL about Trump’s speech on Afghanistan last week, in which the President vowed to increase the number of boots on the ground and gave no clear timetable of when the U.S. presence there would end. He did not deploy Gorka’s preferred term linking violent extremism to Islam, however.

“I realized after the President’s speech this week on Afghanistan that he’s not being well-served,” Gorka told Breitbart. “That speech was written by people for the President in direct contravention of everything that we voted for November the 8th.”

Gorka mostly avoided naming the White House staffers he was complaining about on his weekend news rounds. However, he did point fingers at a few particular individuals: In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Gorka criticized McMaster for failing to describe ISIL in religious terms, calling the national security adviser’s framing “simply wrong” and unfavorably comparing it with the Obama administration’s approach.

He also said that critical news reports about him, including those about his affiliation with a Hungarian knightly order founded by a Nazi collaborator and his wafer-thin resume on counterterrorism issues, were only ever brought up by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

“The only time they would come up is when Jared [Kushner] would joke about them,” Gorka said. “He would always joke about the latest absurd accusation to be made. But it’s possible they came up privately.”

Such on-the-record criticism of one of Trump’s family members suggests that Gorka will be more candid now that he’s no longer a White House staffer. He’s framed his departure, which was reportedly preceded by the revocation of his security clearance, as a move that allows him “far greater power and freedom” to promote the President’s agenda.

But that “freedom” may spell bad news for the administration. While other senior officials have proven themselves willing to criticize the President and his policies in public, Gorka had been a reliable mouthpiece for the Trump team, dutifully making the rounds on cable news in moments of crisis to offer unblinking White House spin.

As he demonstrated this weekend, Gorka no longer feels that responsibility so keenly.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas compelling testimony from public relations executives who worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a campaign promoting a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, NBC News reported Friday.

Several unname people with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC that Mueller’s team has asked for documents and testimony from firms who assisted Manafort’s lobbying campaign, which ran from 2012 to 2014. Manafort retroactively registered as a foreign agent for his work on behalf of Ukraine’s Party of Regions and the country’s deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort has emerged in recent weeks as a linchpin in Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, potential collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, and the financial dealings of various Trump associates.

FBI agents raided a home he owns in Alexandria, Virginia last month, and he is under federal scrutiny for his work for the Party of Regions, his offshore banking transactions, and mounting questions about whether he used his complex web of real estate dealings to launder money from Eastern Europe.

Manafort also attended a pivotal June 2016 sit-down with Donald Trump, Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and several Russian operatives, one of whom claimed to information that would hurt Hillary Clinton as part of a Kremlin effort to help Trump’s campaign.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into any possible role ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn may have played in a former GOP operative’s ad-hoc campaign to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

As the Journal previously reported, Republican activist Peter W. Smith cited Flynn’s consulting firm and son last fall in his outreach to cybersecurity experts and hackers whose help he sought in digging up the 33,000 emails Clinton deleted from her private server during the 2016 presidential campaign.

As Smith told the Journal in May, “We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government.”

Smith, who was 81 years old, committed suicide 10 days after his final interview with the Journal by asphyxiating himself at a hotel across from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He left behind a note saying there was no “foul play whatsoever” involved in his death.

According to the Journal’s latest reporting, Mueller’s crack team of prosecutors has been conducting interviews and collecting information to try to determine whether Flynn, his son Michael G. Flynn, or his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, assisted Smith in his efforts.

In a recruiting document obtained by the Journal, Smith had said that campaign officials including Flynn, former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, and former campaign manager-turned-White House counselor Kellyanne Conway were working “in coordination” with him. Bannon and Conway told the newspaper they were unaware of and played no role in Smith’s efforts.

A lawyer for Flynn and a separate lawyer for his son declined the Journal’s request for comment, as did a spokesman for the special counsel.

Flynn is also under federal investigation for his well-compensated lobbying work on behalf of Turkey during the campaign, as well as his failure to disclose repeated contacts with Russian officials during the transition.

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A familiar figure resurfaced at President Donald Trump’s campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona this week: Maurice Symonette, a.k.a. “Michael the Black Man,” could be seen on camera standing just behind the President, signature “Blacks for Trump” sign in hand.

Symonette captured the media’s attention during the 2016 presidential race after the Miami New Times noted that the frequent Trump rally attendee was a member of a defunct, violent black supremacist cult and had a checkered criminal history, including acquittal on two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Although South Florida media have reported extensively on his ties to the Yahweh ben Yahweh cult and his promotion, via a radio show and multiple websites, of a bizarrely ahistorical and racialized worldview, Symonette always manages to land a prime spot behind Trump at the campaign events he attends.

When TPM first reached Symonette on Wednesday to ask how he snags such prominent seats at Trump rallies, he hung up after a few minutes, saying he was rushing over to an event Vice President Pence was holding with Venezuelan immigrants at a church in Miami’s Doral neighborhood.

Reached again on Friday, Symonette insisted in a meandering 30-minute phone call from the porch of his Miami home that he has no formal relationship with the Trump campaign. He said he uses his own funds to travel to campaign and administration events throughout the southeast.

“I just go on my own, that’s it,” Symonette said, adding that he knows plenty of people to “say hi to” but has no ongoing contact with any Trump staffers.

“I don’t know if they’re on the campaign,” he said of the individuals he greets at campaign events. “’Cause when I go there I make it my business to keep on business, cause what I’m really interested in doing is showing that the white man and the black man are in unity. Because the Bible says if we fight, God is going to kill everybody by fire.”

And the secret to snagging a spot so close to the President? Symonette said he simply arrives early.

“If you get there late you end up in the back, in the audience,” he said. “They’re used to seeing me so I just walk up to the front. And just walk in. I guess they’ve already vetted me or whatever they have to do and I just walk in, that’s it.”

TPM has made repeated efforts to contact multiple members of the Trump 2020 campaign by phone, email and Facebook messenger for comment on Symonette this week but received no response.

Symonette is no stranger to the President himself, though. At one October 2016 rally in Sanford, Florida, Trump took note of the supportive signs his fans were waving for the cameras.

“I love the signs behind me,” Trump yelled. “‘Blacks for Trump.’ I like those signs. ‘Blacks for Trump.’ You watch. You watch. Those signs are great!”

The signs Trump was referring to featured the URL of one of Symonette’s websites, Gods2.com, a poorly-formatted site full of screeds about a “race war” it says Hillary Clinton plans to carry out with the help of the Islamic State and MS-13 gang, and about how, as Symonette argued at length in conversation with TPM, Cherokee Indians bear responsibility for keeping black and white Americans down.

According to Symonette, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Confederate Gen. Albert Pike, president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, “almost all of the Confederate army,” the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, and segregationist former Birmingham, Alabama Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor have one thing in common: they were all “full-blooded Cherokees.”

He views Trump, on the other hand, as a “white gentile” who will impose taxes on the Cherokees and an “emancipator” who will provide economic liberation to blacks and to poor whites.

Symonette has long promoted these same fringey ideas on his radio show, YouTube channel and at tea party events. In 2012, he derailed a Rick Santorum campaign event where he was invited to give an introduction by calling Democrats “Nazis” and “slave masters” in disguise.

Born Maurice Woodside, Symonette, who took his father’s name as an adult, came to the Republican Party after years in the obscure Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, which had its headquarters in the gritty Miami neighborhood of Liberty City. As the Miami New Times has chronicled in rich detail, he was charged in 1990 with conspiracy to murder alongside Yahweh’s charismatic leader, Hulon Mitchell Jr., and other cult members. His brother testified that he stuck a sharpened stick into one victim’s eyeball; ultimately Symonette was acquitted. In separate cases, he was hit with charges for grand theft auto; trying to board a Delta flight with a gun; threatening a police officer; and driving a purportedly stolen car with a gun on the front seat, as the Miami New Times has reported.

Symonette brought up his rap sheet unprompted, proclaiming his innocence and lamenting that the press mentions those charges in stories about him.

“That’s why I agree with Trump,” he said of what he sees as unfair treatment by the media. “Because they’re doing him the way they do me.”

Now a singer and promoter, Symonette sees it as his duty to show the press that Trump, who won a meager 8 percent of the black vote, has African-American supporters.

“I sold a few things to get up there and I got up there,” he said of his attendance at the Phoenix rally. “That was a very important rally, that Trump be seen with his brothers, the black man of America.”

Symonette’s presence Tuesday gave the President cover in face of the heavy, sustained backlash he received for his delayed response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, remarks that Symonette characterized as “perfect.” He sees the other part of his mission as convincing black Americans that the President is on their side.

“I don’t care about who he is and what he’s about, I’m here because of his policies, that’s it,” Symonette said of the President’s promises to slash regulations and taxes. “Trump gives us liberty. That’s what I’m dealing with and the only thing I’m dealing with.”

As the call wrapped, Symonette offered a Trumpian plea not to write critical news about him.

“I know you’re gonna go write bad stuff about me,” Symonette said, “but remember: Yahweh loves you and so do I.”

Correction: Bull Connor was misidentified in the original version of this story as mayor of Birmingham rather than commissioner of public safety.

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Former CIA Director John Brennan warned his employees in an internal memo last December that some members of Congress did not “understand and appreciate the importance of gravity” of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Buzzfeed News reported Thursday.

The memo, which Buzzfeed obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, did not mention the specific lawmakers who Brennan referred to by name. Three unnamed intelligence sources told the publication that the lawmakers in question were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), a particularly close ally of the Trump administration.

In the months since President Donald Trump took office, both McConnell and Cornyn have continued to downplay Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and any possible assistance the Trump team may have provided for that effort.

Brennan testified in May on the collective assessment that he and other intelligence leaders reached about Russia’s “brazen” interference in the 2016 race through bots pushing fake news and the release of emails hacked from Democratic Party organizations and operatives.

Under oath before the House Intelligence Committee, Brennan said that the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia warranted investigation. He also said that he left office with “unresolved questions” about whether Russian officials successfully convinced members of the campaign “to act on their behalf—wittingly or unwittingly.”

Four congressional committees and a special counsel are currently investigating Russia’s election interference and relationship with the Trump campaign.

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During his rambling rally this week in Phoenix, Arizona, President Donald Trump scoffed at the idea that anyone would label him a racist for his ever-evolving response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. All he wanted to do, he told a crowd of his supporters, was address his concern that an undefined “they” were attempting “to take away our history and our heritage.”

That language merely puts a presentable face on the racism that left counter-protesters bloodied on the streets of Charlottesville, according to former skinheads and law enforcement who’ve worked with them. Those individuals told TPM that Trump’s comments used the same rhetorical lures that white supremacists and other hate groups rely on to hook new members.

“It’s dangerous because it creates a distinction between us and them,” said Michael German, a former FBI special agent who during his time in law enforcement went undercover with neo-Nazi skinheads in southern California and anti-government militia groups. “When Donald Trump talks about us and our heritage he’s only speaking to one audience, and that audience then starts to view others who are fellow Americans as somehow the enemy.”

“The rhetoric draws people in because it makes them feel like they are losing something terribly important. It perpetuates the us vs. them mentality and serves no one,” echoed Angela King, a former skinhead who spent six years in prison for assisting an armed robbery of a Jewish-owned store. King went on to co-found Life After Hate, a nonprofit that works with former members of violent far-right groups.

The criticism that Trump is dog-whistling to disaffected whites is nothing new for a politician who kicked off his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans drug dealers and criminals, and who once proposed banning all Muslim immigrants to the U.S. The White House has brushed it off, insisting that Trump “of course” condemns “white Supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups.”

“We have condemned these groups over and over again and will continue to do so,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a Thursday statement to TPM. “There is no place for hate and bigotry in our country.”

But after a week of flailing statements on the violence in Charlottesville that were cheered by the extremist fringe and criticized by just about everyone else, the President has landed on talking points that those same groups use to justify their movement and bring new people into the fold.

Trump’s remarks on George Washington offer one telling example. “George Washington was a slave owner. So will George Washington now lose his status?” the President asked reporters last week at Trump Tower. “Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington?”

“How about Thomas Jefferson?” he added. “Because he was a major slave owner. Now are we going to take down his statue?”

On that same day, onetime GOP presidential candidate and nativist commentator Pat Buchanan made the very same point in a column republished by white nationalist publication American Renaissance. 

“Many Southern towns, including Alexandria, Virginia, have statues of Confederate soldiers looking to the South. Shall we pull them all down?” he wrote.”And once all the Southern Civil War monuments are gone, should we go after the statues of the slave owners whom we Americans have heroized? Gen. George Washington and his subordinate, ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, were slave owners, as was Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson.”

Conservative pundits have made similar arguments on Fox News couches in recent days. As Derek Black, the son of the founder of white supremacist website Stormfront, pointed out in a New York Times op-ed this week, few Americans would justify marching down the streets of a U.S. city brandishing a swastika flag, but many more feel comfortable lamenting what they are being told is the erasure of U.S. history.

“My dad often gave me the advice that white nationalists are not looking to recruit people on the fringes of American culture, but rather the people who start a sentence by saying, ‘I’m not racist, but …’,” Black, who has disavowed the movement, wrote of his father, Don. “The most effective tactics for white nationalists are to associate American history with themselves and to suggest that the collective efforts to turn away from our white supremacist past are the same as abandoning American culture.”

Frank Meeink, a former neo-Nazi who left the movement after a stint in prison as a teenager for kidnapping one man and beating another, told TPM that he used those sort of “common sense,” pseudo-academic appeals to recruit residents of his South Philadelphia neighborhood into his skinhead gang.

“It’s the biggest bait and switch. You’re down and out and people are saying, ‘Come be proud of your heritage, they’re telling you you can’t be, come join our group!’” Meeink said of his efforts to “pitch” to new recruits.

“You join the group and not once did these guys talk about their heritage in meetings,” Meeink went on. “Never went to a meeting where they were like, ‘Hey, let’s talk about Leif Erikson again!’ All we talked about was, ‘Look at what the Jews are doing to our culture,’ but we never talked about what our culture did, it was what they’re doing. You’re not taught about your heritage; you’re taught about why other heritages aren’t as good.”

Trump is hardly the first politician to fret over the preservation of southern history or to send winking signals to white nationalists. But that kind of pandering has almost always come from the fringiest members of Congress, if not obscure local and state-level politicians. Just Wednesday, the Republican Party of Virginia backed down after attacking the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, whose ancestors had owned slaves, for betraying his “heritage” by calling to move Confederate statues into museums.

Trump, who himself once argued in favor of removing the Confederate flag from public spaces, has showed no signs of contrition, lashing out at critics in the media and on Capitol Hill and defending his recent comments as inherently harmless. Speaking with the imprimatur of the White House, Trump has taken these bogus historical arguments mainstream.

German, the former FBI agent, emphasized that people don’t simply transform into white nationalists overnight, pointing to recent studies showing an increase in U.S. hate groups.

“I always ask myself, ‘Okay is it that people who weren’t racist yesterday decide, you know what, I think I’ll be a racist!’” he joked. “I don’t think so.”

“I tend to believe that these are feelings that a sizable segment of the population holds and is reluctant to express, because they know its not social acceptable to say these things,” he added. “When you have someone like Donald Trump say them from a campaign podium or platform, that makes it okay to say them. That has brought out a lot of this latent racism to full expression. And that expression then influences our policy and the way we enforce the law.”

This post has been updated.

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Anti-Muslim activists interested in rubbing shoulders with like-minded individuals at upcoming nationwide “America First” rallies were met with bad news Monday.

ACT for America, one of the country’s largest anti-Muslim groups, announced the cancellation of some 67 demonstrations in 36 states out of concern that “violence” could break out at those events. The organization shared the news with Breitbart that it would instead hold an online “Day of ACTion” for supporters.

“ACT for America is deeply saddened that in today’s divisive climate, citizens cannot peacefully express their opinion without risk of physical harm from terror groups domestic and international,” the organization said in a statement provided to Breitbart. “In recent weeks, extremist and radical organizations in the United States and abroad have overrun peaceful events in order to advance their own agendas, and in many cases, violence has been the result. Given the security issues of organizing public events, the responsible decision is to deny this opportunity to Neo-Nazis, Antifa, the KKK, and ISIS inspired individuals and groups.”

Although it didn’t mention any specific event by name, the statement appeared to reference the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where one counter-protester was killed and at least 19 others injured in a car attack. Another event organized in Boston by the so-called “alt-right,” the broader and loosely affiliated group of racists, misogynists and anti-Semites, was largely peaceful, with an estimated 40,000 counter-protesters hugely outnumbering the rally attendees.

In a belated response Tuesday afternoon, ACT spokesperson Brian Glicklich told TPM that the cancellations were not “based on any single event.”

Instead, the decision was related to “the rapidly evolving landscape of threats and harassment directed at public free speech rallies,” Glicklich said. “We cannot justify putting our supporters in that kind of environment.”

The “America First” rallies were originally billed as opportunities for supporters of President Donald Trump to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks, express support for law enforcement and promote “real protection over political correctness” in the fight against the Islamic State terror group. ACT has held similar rallies before, including June protests against what they see as the threat of “creeping” Shariah law. Brigitte Gabriel, who founded the group, is a vocal Trump supporter who in March shared photographs of herself at the White House that she said were taken during a meeting there.

The Southern Poverty Law Center designates ACT as a hate group due to its virulent rhetoric about Muslims and Islam.

Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for the anti-Muslim bigotry and civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, said in a statement that by canceling the rallies “ACT is essentially acknowledging that these types of events cause and incite violence.”

“The reality is that ACT for America’s supporters are no different than those who marched in and supported the Charlottesville events,” Ahussain continued.

City officials in some locations where events were planned had already pushed back against ACT, associating the organization with other far-right extremist groups.

“My message to them is ‘We don’t want you here,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told local ABC affiliate WISN this week. “We don’t want any Nazi groups here, any white supremacist or ‘alt-right’ groups who are coming because this is a city of inclusion. It’s not a city of exclusion, and it’s not a city of white supremacy so go somewhere else and bother the people there.”

Barrett’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on the rallies’ cancelation.

Resistance to the planned ACT rallies is just one aspect of the mass pushback against far-right and extremist groups after Charlottesville. Universities have canceled white nationalist events and major technology companies have booted them off their platforms.

Last week, the right-wing leaders of demonstrations organized to protest Google’s firing of James Damore, a male employee who wrote a memo arguing that women were biologically unfit for technical positions at the company, canceled events at Google facilities on account of what they said were “credible threats from known Alt Left terrorist groups.”

This post has been updated.

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The internet’s foremost purveyors of racist bile faced an unprecedented backlash in the wake of the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. White nationalists and other hate groups were kicked off of mainstream social media and web hosting sites in droves, pushing them onto platforms created to cater to their niche audiences.

But these sites, such as anti-censorship crowdfunding platform RootBocks and WeSearchr, the crowdfunding site co-founded by far-right blogger and agitator Chuck Johnson, have little name recognition and limited reach. That creates mini-echo chambers where a self-selecting group on the far-right fringe can trade memes and fund each others’ legal fees.

“It further pushes these people to the margins of the internet, not that they were anything more than marginal to begin with,” Hatreon founder Cody Wilson told TPM in a Monday phone interview. “Yeah, some of their stuff began to get purchase with Trump and campaign ’16 but again it’s always vastly overestimated.”

Hatreon, which describes itself as “a platform for creators, absent speech policing,” is a far-right take on Patreon, a platform that allows podcast hosts and other creators to solicit paid subscriptions from their fans. Wilson, whose primary occupation is running a company that develops and publishes open-source gun designs that can be 3-D printed, told TPM he was “sympathetic” to the “alt-right” but personally was “not right-wing.” He said he created the platform so that the loose band of white nationalists, anti-Semites and misogynists who compose the “alt-right” could “have a leg in this conversation and not be banished from the internet.”

Jared Taylor, head of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, complained of the “terrible setback” imposed by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other large-scale tech companies in preventing leaders of his movement from reaching new audiences.

“It is a reversion to the pre-internet days when in order to really have access to the public you had to own a newspaper or a magazine or a television network or radio station,” he told TPM in a recent interview. “The internet has vastly democratized this process and made it possible for people not just like us but like Donald Trump to bypass the gatekeepers. What we are going back to is a kind of snuffing out of dissident views. It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

A number of extremist activists and leaders interviewed by TPM were optimistic that these new platforms would eventually gain more members and clout. But for now, the numbers speak for themselves.

Wilson claimed that he spends “$12 grand a month” of his own money to fund Hatreon as a passion project, saying the site “doesn’t make money” and estimating it has approximately 900 registered users. By contrast, Patreon has over 50,000 registered users and is on track to pay creators over $150 million in 2017, according to a recent company blog post. Facebook boasted some 2 billion users as of this summer; even social media sites with comparatively smaller user bases, like Twitter, with 328 million users, remain central to the national conversation, especially in the Trump era. White nationalists can’t get an accidental retweet from the President if they’re using a fringe platform he’s never heard of, after all.

The refusal of companies like PayPal and Amazon to process payments from certain sites also limits fundraising options for those groups. RootBocks, for example, only accepts cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin at the moment.

As Taylor observed, “You can’t make a living just accepting donations only in Bitcoins.”

Peter Brimelow, founder of the site Virginia Dare, which features articles from white nationalist contributors, told TPM in an email last week that his site, which was booted from PayPal, was “earning significant income from Google Adsense [and] Amazon before they purged us.”

Companies have also been dropping the domains of white nationalist sites and shutting down their servers, and there’ve been claims of hacker collectives targeting those sites with spontaneous disruption of service campaigns. As Utsav Sanduja, chief communications officer and global corporate affairs director for Gab, a Twitter alternative popular among the far-right, told TPM, “We’ve actually been targeted by far-left social justice warrior mobs and groups that have been DDOSing us on a regular basis and trying to bring down our site.”

Sanduja, whose Gab bio features a nod to Trump, insists that his site is run by and open to people from a range of ideological backgrounds who want to engage in “politically incorrect discourse.”

“We want a discourse that is free and civil and peaceful as opposed to people getting censored and going to the dark web, where there is criminality,” Sanduja said. “We’re trying to moderate it, essentially, this dialogue, and prevent it from getting violent.”

Other sites are more focused in their target audience and demographics. TPM reached out to Pax Dickinson, who was fired as chief technology officer at Business Insider for his racist, misogynist views and went on to found Counter.Fund, a fundraising platform “built by and for the wider Alt-Right counter-culture.”

His response: “Fuck you, Talking Points Memo bullshit artist, I wouldn’t talk to you if you paid me.”

Wilson, of Hatreon, was flip when asked about the long-term viability of these alternative platforms catering to white nationalists.

“If they can’t find alternative, they’re not mature enough as a group,” he said. “I think this severe reaction to them [from mainstream companies] is necessary. If they have something they really believe in, they should be able to overcome it.”

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