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Trump Official Lobbies for British Ultranationalist at Breitbart’s Request

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. (Charlie Riedel / AP)

Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell made headlines when he suggested he aimed to empower the far right across Europe, drawing the ire of critics at home and abroad. Yet a new Reuters report reveals he’s hardly an outlier within the Trump administration.

According to the international news agency, Sam Brownback, a former Kansas senator and governor, who currently serves as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, lobbied Britain’s envoy to the U.S. to release infamous ultranationalist Tommy Robinson following the 13-month sentence he was given in May for contempt of court. What’s more, Brownback appears to have acted at the behest of Breitbart, the far-right news site whose former chairman, Steve Bannon, previously served as Trump’s senior White House adviser.

“[Brownback] told British envoy Sir Kim Darroch at a meeting in June that Breitbart ‘people’ had contacted him about Robinson’s imprisonment,” writes Reuter’s Mark Hosenball, citing a British government source. “Brownback told Darroch that British authorities should be aware that the website was making noise about the case. … Three pro-Robinson campaigners said there were multiple direct contacts between Brownback, his aides, people connected to [Breitbart] and other groups protesting his imprisonment.”

Born Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Robinson is the founder of the English Defence League, a British organization whose mission statement claims it aims to “lead and inspire against global Islamification.” It also professes to “stand for the right of English people to their own country over and above people from elsewhere.”

Robinson, a self-styled journalist and activist, was arrested earlier this year after shooting videos outside a courthouse in Leeds that related to a child molestation case. (The recordings were in violation of British law entitling the accused to a fair trial.) As the Guardian’s Owen Jones wrote at the time, “[Robinson] is no martyr to freedom of speech, just a career criminal with a history of mortgage fraud, football hooliganism and assault whose craving for publicity put a critical court case at risk.”

Brownback is not the only Trump official to come to Robinson’s defense. In an interview with British journalist Theo Usherwood, Bannon himself called the far-right demagogue a “good guy” who has “got to be released from prison.”

What the former White House aide had to say off camera was more revealing still. Usherwood, who had been quick to note that Robinson broke the law, claims Bannon spat out the following upon the conclusion of their interview: “Fuck you. Don’t you fucking say you’re calling me out. You fucking liberal elite. Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country.”

Neither Brownback nor the U.S. State Department has commented on the Reuters report as of this writing.

Jacob Sugarman
Managing Editor
Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig. He is a graduate of the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism whose writing has appeared in Salon, AlterNet and Tablet, among other…
Jacob Sugarman

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