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The Trump Team Takes Shape, and It's Not Pretty

In his 17-month campaign for the presidency, Donald J. Trump was frequently lambasted for his associations with extremists. He met with right-wing radicals, spoke at their events, hired some of them, and even retweeted their propaganda. He seemed to go out of his way to avoid condemning racist activists and their ilk.

Now, Trump is the president-elect. And things don’t look much different.

As word of the identity of many of Trump’s transition team members leaked out in the last day or so, it’s become apparent that America’s 45th president will be relying on a number of people who, by any reasonable measure, are right-wing extremists.

The best known of them is Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has worked to suppress votes in that state and elsewhere by claiming to be battling a major vote fraud problem. Kobach has for many years been “of counsel” to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has for many years listed FAIR as a hate group — its founder has written that the United States should have “a European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” and corresponded with Klan lawyers, Holocaust deniers and others as he built up FAIR. The group also accepted more than $1 million from a racist foundation.

Kobach has been named to Trump’s immigration transition team and already is promising to carry out Trump’s threat to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. “There’s no question the wall is going to get built,” he said, according to KWCH-TV. “The only question is how quickly will it get done and who pays for it.”

Yesterday, Politico obtained and published a document from the Trump campaign entitled “Current Agency Action Team structure,” detailing the people who would be heading up the transition in a whole array of areas. Three stood out.

Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state who will be heading up Trump’s transition team on domestic issues, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC), designated by the SPLC as an anti-LGBT hate group. The FRC is known for making false and defamatory claims about LGBT people, including the baseless claim that very large numbers of gay men are child molesters. According to Right Wing Watch, Blackwell has attacked President Obama for his endorsement of LGBT rights, saying the president was “weakening the family.” A senior official with the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group, today described Blackwell as “a man who has spent his entire career going after LGBTQ Americans.”

In 2014, Blackwell was on the executive committee of the Council for National Policy (CNP), according to a membership manual obtained by the SPLC earlier this year. The CNP is an intensely secretive and shadowy group of some of the most powerful conservatives in the country. It is especially remarkable because its membership has included a large number of extremists, people who regularly defame LGBT people with utter falsehoods, attack Muslims as dangerous enemies of freedom, engage in the kind of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing for which the John Birch Society is famous, and even suggest that certain people should be stoned to death in line with Old Testament law.

Also listed was Bill Walton, who will head with another man the Trump transition team on economic issues. William L Walton is the chairman of Rappahannock Ventures LLC, a private equity firm, and Rush River Entertainment and is also on the Heritage Foundation board. A Rappahannock biography says Walton was “recently” elected CNP vice president. Earlier, in 2014, according to the manual obtained by the SPLC, Walton was a member of the CNP’s Board of Governors.

Finally, Edwin Meese III, the former attorney general of the United States, is listed as the co-head of the Trump transition team on management and the budget. Meese is a former CNP president (1993-97) and was in 2014 a regular member.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Trump is considering a number of other people with ties to extremists for his transition team or even his new government. But as yet, these remain in the realm of speculation.

Cover photo by Michael Vadon.

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