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Don’t Think Twice, It’s “Alt-right”: Nazi Fellow Traveler Chuck Johnson Helping Trump Transition Team

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The group Charles "Chuck" Johnson networked with in Washingon D.C. [5]

The group Charles “Chuck” Johnson networked with in Washingon D.C.

Charles "Chuck" Johnson [6]

Charles “Chuck” Johnson

COMMENT: Notorious troll, blogger and Nazi/white-supremacist fellow traveler Charles “Chuck” Johnson has substantive input in Trump’s cabinet selections. Worth noting is the fact that Johnson may be operating in tandem with Peter Thiel, whose database named the “Plum List” bears a striking similarity to a website “ThePlumlist.com,” apparently being used by Johnson to help staff Trump’s administration.

“ . . . . Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the ‘alt-right.’ Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election. . . . .”

Johnson is now apparently secretly helping the Trump team staff the Executive Branch despite being an open white supremacist neo-Nazi troll. Or perhaps because of that. Either way, if this report is accurate he’s not just passing along a few suggestions to Peter Thiel. He helped create a database of potential appointees:

” . . . . Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail [7] reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump. . . .” 

While Charles C. Johnson may not technically be the Helene von Damm [8] of the Trump administration (the Director of Presidential Personnel is John DeStefano), he may well be playing a similar role.

In that context, we note that John DeStanfo was only named the Director of Presidential Personnel about a week ago [9], suggesting that the Trump team has probably been a lot more dependent on the recommendations of folks like Thiel and Johnson for the first couple months of the transition period than they want to admit.

Those wondering if Trump was going to be filling his administration with “Alt-Right” neo-Nazis, the answer appears to be that he already is, and those neo-Nazis are helping him pick the rest of his staff.

Recall that Thiel also bankrolled Ron Paul’s Super Pac [10] in the 2012 election. Paul moves in white supremacist circles as well.

“A Troll Outside Trump Tower Is Helping To Pick Your Next Government” by Ryan Mac and Matt Drange; Forbes; 1/9/2017. [11]

An internet troll, who was once called “the most hated man on the internet [12]” and is banned from Twitter, is recommending candidates to serve in the Trump administration.

Charles “Chuck” Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the President-elect’s transition team. While Johnson does not have a formal position, FORBES has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called “alt-right.”

The proximity to power is something new for Johnson, a self-described “journalist, author and debunker of frauds,” who has made a name for himself by peddling false information and right-wing conspiracy theories online. In the months leading up to the election, Johnson, 28, used social media and his website GotNews.com to stump for the President-elect while also publishing misinformation on Trump’s detractors. Now, Johnson is helping to pick some of the leaders who may run the country for the next four years.

FORBES verified Johnson’s involvement with multiple people close to the transition team who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. When asked about his work with the transition team, Johnson said last month that he had “no formal role,” and was vague regarding his level of influence. Johnson agreed to multiple phone and email interviews with FORBES in December, but he declined to return repeated follow-up requests for comment this month.

“Whether I am listened to or not remains to be seen,” Johnson wrote in an email to FORBES in December. “I am by and large pretty happy with the government selected thus far, though I am sorry to say that a lot of the candidates that I favor have not been selected.”

Johnson’s statements came before his appearance on an online radio show with libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux on Dec. 22 [13] during which Johnson declared that he had been “doing a lot of vetting for the administration and the Trump transition.”

The disclosure of Johnson’s involvement comes at a time of intense scrutiny for Trump’s transition team, whose cabinet picks will begin Senate confirmation hearings this week. Those hearings are moving forward despite the fact that, as of this weekend, the Office of Government Ethics had not completed its review of multiple appointees. It is unprecedented for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings for a President-elect’s nominees before formal background checks are completed.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not return a request for comment. Jeremiah Hall, a spokesman for Thiel, declined to comment.

While Twitter banned Johnson in May 2015 after threatening a Black Lives Matters activist, he made a name for himself as an internet troll, or an online personality who antagonizes others by posting inflammatory or misleading information. Among his exploits, Johnson has published the home addresses of New York Times reporters, wrongly identified a woman he thought was the source of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story of an alleged rape at the University of Virginia and claimed that President Barack Obama is gay.

“On Twitter, like, I have a certain kind of personality, a pugnaciousness, like an alter ego,” he said in 2014 to Mother Jones [14]. “You know, like when Spider-Man puts on the costume, for instance, he’s no longer a mild-mannered photographer. He has an attitude. I do that because I want my content to really go viral.”

Johnson portrays GotNews as an alternative to the “lying mainstream media.” He said it receives 2.5 million page views per month. (Quantcast [15] estimated in the last 30 days that about 246,000 people have visited the site.) Recent stories include a piece on Senator Ted Cruz’s supposedly imminent Supreme Court nomination and another on Trump’s “biggest regret” in supporting John McCain’s 2016 Senate re-election run.

Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the “alt-right.” Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election.

Mike Cernovich, another pro-Trump troll who is friends with Johnson, said that Johnson often has a hand in behind-the-scenes politics. “The media really likes to hate on [Johnson],” Cernovich said. “But if they knew how influential he has been–in ways they didn’t know–it would be kind of mind blowing.”

Johnson, who boldly predicted against conventional wisdom and polls that Trump would win, and who was spotted in the VIP section at Trump’s election night party, began working with the transition team shortly after Nov. 8. Among his contacts within Manhattan’s Trump Tower, where the President-elect has set up camp, is Thiel, a member of the transition’s executive committee. A PayPal cofounder and Facebook board member whose vast network of Silicon Valley connections has made him invaluable to the President-elect, Thiel has overseen many of the science and technology appointments for the incoming administration.

Johnson has helped in that effort, pushing for at least a dozen potential candidates to Thiel, including Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, whom Johnson hopes will lead the organization under Trump. Pai declined to comment for this story. As a Republican member of the FCC, Pai is a natural candidate to be considered for the chairmanship of the agency, and Johnson’s recommendation suggests he’s also favored by a segment of the self-described “alt-right.”

Beyond recommending candidates, Johnson has also helped set up meetings between potential appointees and transition team members. He has worked with Jim O’Neill, who is being considered to head the Food and Drug Administration and is currently employed by Thiel at San Francisco-based investment firm Mithril Capital. Johnson has tried to arrange for O’Neill to meet with conservative influencers and political groups in an effort to build support for his potential FDA nomination. O’Neill declined to comment.

Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail [7] reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump.

Johnson denied working with Thiel, and said the two had “only a passing familiarity.” Johnson added that he and Thiel “share some of the same enemies,” a reference to the now defunct news organization, Gawker Media. Thiel secretly bankrolled [16] former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s landmark invasion of privacy lawsuit against the New York media organization, which ultimately led to the company’s bankruptcy. Separately, Johnson sued Gawker in a California court for defamation after the website published a series of critical and abrasive stories about him.

FORBES previously reported [17] that Johnson, while exploring representation for his case, had a phone discussion with lawyers at Harder Mirell & Abrams, the law firm that Thiel paid to represent Hogan, and that Johnson’s case had been pitched to other Los Angeles law firms as part of a wider legal strategy against Gawker. Johnson’s lawsuit remains on hold, pending a hearing later this month in federal bankruptcy court to determine the fate of Gawker Media’s remaining assets.

If Gawker is Johnson and Thiel’s shared enemy, then Trump advisor and chief strategist Stephen Bannon is their most prominent mutual ally. Johnson worked for Bannon at Breitbart News, where Bannon served as executive chairman before joining Trump’s campaign last year. “I liked [Bannon], and was close to him,” Johnson said in a December phone interview.

Last fall, Johnson and Bannon led an effort prior to the second presidential debate in October to stage a press conference with Trump and four women who have accused Bill Clinton of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment and Hillary Clinton of protecting an alleged sexual criminal. Johnson claimed [18] to have helped raise more than $10,000 for one of those women, Kathleen Shelton–who alleged that she was raped in 1975 by a man who Hillary Clinton later represented as a public defender–to attend the event.

While Johnson denied his recent work with Thiel, he freely discussed his efforts to influence the transition team through his old boss, Bannon. Still, Johnson insisted that while Bannon takes his opinion into consideration, his recommendations are sometimes ignored. “Imagine you had an ex-boss who became the consigliere to the President of the United States,” Johnson told FORBES last month. “You can’t be like, ‘Dude, you’re f***ing up.’”

Alexandra Preate, a spokesperson for Bannon, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The full extent of Johnson’s involvement in the transition is not clear, though several of his associates have also interfaced with the team in recent weeks. FORBES has learned that Cernovich and Jeff Giesea, a Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur who worked for Thiel in the past, have also been in contact with transition team members, according to sources. Giesea declined to comment, while Cernovich discussed the transition team’s agenda but remained vague when pressed for details of his own work.

“I want to be free to say whatever I want to say. And in a way that limits what I can do officially,” Cernovich said, denying that he has had any direct communication with Thiel or other members of the transition team. “I don’t want anyone to get jammed up, vis-à-vis any association with me.”

Cernovich and Giesea have also organized a party for Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. later this month dubbed the “DeploraBall.” Cernovich said that 1,000 tickets have been sold for the event, which is billed as “the biggest meme ever” and will take place at the National Press Club on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. Johnson said the event was about giving voice to a group of people who, until Trump’s landmark victory in November, were often ignored by the political establishment. When asked if he felt that he had gotten credit for his recent work, Johnson said, “Not as much as I deserve.”

Johnson attributed much of the work that he and others have done in support of Trump to being able to tap into voters’ emotions through memes, such as the Pepe the Frog cartoon that became an informal mascot for Trump supporters. Johnson said that memes represent a new way for people to discuss national politics, which he said is dominated by a “white paper” mindset predicated on debating policy merits based on fact rather than emotion. To hear Johnson tell it, the success of this approach is evidenced by the visceral reaction to memes that generated widespread attention and influenced public perception during Trump’s rise to power, despite having little or no basis in fact.