Update: This article has been updated to include the Trump campaign’s response, below.
Mother Jones reported today that William Johnson, chairman of the white nationalist American Freedom Party, is now an official delegate for Donald Trump in California’s upcoming Republican Primary. In order to become a delegate, Johnson had to apply to the Trump campaign with a signed pledge to support Trump at the Republican National Convention. Johnson will vote for Trump in Cleveland, should he be elected by California voters.
The American Freedom Party represents the interests, its website says, of “European Americans” and “White Americans.”
Johnson was behind the widely-reported white supremacist robocalls supporting Donald Trump that flooded Wisconsin phone lines before the Republican primary there. Johnson orchestrated the calls as a publicity stunt, saying in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time, “I want people to hear, to feel comfortable with, the term ‘white nationalist,'”
In an interview with Mother Jones today, Johnson echoed that sentiment: “I just hope to show how I can be mainstream and have these views,” he said.
The Trump campaign surely knows who Johnson is: In February, Trump said he would return a donation Johnson gave the campaign in October, in response to a question from a town hall attendee in New Hampshire. Johnson has drawn wide notice as the public symbol of white nationalist support for the casino mogul.
Mother Jones also reports that Johnson included all of his pro-Trump, pro-nationalist political activity in his application to become a Trump delegate.
In 1985, Johnson authored the Pace Amendment, which would have abolished the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution and restricted citizenship to “non-Hispanic white[s] of the European race.” Non-whites of child-bearing age would be financially incentivized to leave the country, Johnson wrote at the time.
In 2010, Johnson said in an interview with the nationalist The Political Cesspool radio show that “The initial basis of our own upstart organization is the racial nationalist movement. It has been in disarray for the last 20 years so there’s not as large a base for us to draw on.”
The Trump campaign’s selection of Johnson as a delegate in the California primary is an extremely troubling development. Trump has widely received the support of the white nationalist community, but this is by far the most explicit endorsement — and this is an endorsement, until the Trump campaign says otherwise — of the racist and nativist ideology.
Update 6:09 PM: In a statement to NBC’s Ali Vitali, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks claimed that a “database error” led to the inclusion of “a potential delegate that had been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in 2016.”
Update 9:33 PM: While Johnson himself says he supports “[Trump’s decision of] not having me as a delegate,” the secretary of state of California says that the deadline has passed for Trump to change his delegate list. So Donald Trump is sending this guy to the floor of the Republican convention, probably.
Photo: Southern Poverty Law Center