One of the country’s most prominent white nationalists remains on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s list of California delegates, despite the campaign’s disavowal of his support.
Trump’s campaign reached out to the California secretary of state on Tuesday to try to remove William Johnson, chairman of the white nationalist American Freedom Party and an ardent Trump supporter, from its delegate list after Mother Jones broke the news of his inclusion. Unfortunately for the campaign, it was too late.
“The statutory deadline to submit a list of delegates to the Secretary of State’s office was May 9,” Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, told TPM on Wednesday. “The Trump campaign did not reach out to us about revising that list until after the deadline, on May 10. We did not accept their revision because it came after the deadline.”
The list of Trump’s California delegates as of May 11, 2016.
Reached by reporters on Tuesday about Johnson’s inclusion, the Trump campaign first called the report “totally false” before attributing it to a “database error.” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told NBC News that Johnson had been “rejected and removed” from the campaign’s list of delegates back in February.
Trump staffers in California were apparently unaware. Emails obtained by Mother Jones show that Trump’s California delegate coordinator, Katie Lagomarsino, sent Johnson a congratulatory email on Monday about his acceptance as a delegate.
Johnson told The Daily Beast that he received an email after his inclusion on the list was reported Tuesday from Tim Clark, the Trump campaign’s California chairman, saying he was “not being considered for a delegate position.”
Johnson, sounding frustrated by the uproar over his appearance on the list, told TPM in a Wednesday phone interview that he “accepts” the campaign’s explanation of a “database error.” He said he does not plan to attend the convention and wants to let an alternate delegate serve in his place instead.
“The Trump campaign doesn’t want to have to deal with this issue so I resigned,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter what the secretary of state’s list says. I resigned so I am no longer going to be a delegate. I’m not going to attend the convention.”
Asked why he applied to be a delegate given the negative attention Trump has received for support from white nationalists, including Johnson himself, he demurred.
“I was naïve,” Johnson said. “I thought I could just go be a delegate and go be a good supporter and be mainstream. I didn’t expect this blowup.”
Over the course of the election so far, Johnson, a longtime advocate for the creation of a “white ethno-state,” has funded a super PAC to raise money for Trump; created a hotline for Trump supporters who feel “marginalized”; and ran a robocall effort in primary states urging white voters to back Trump and his anti-immigrant policies. Johnson said he noted those activities in his application to serve as a Trump delegate, although he said he did not explicitly use the phrase “white nationalist.”
In California, campaigns receive applications directly from Republican voters who hope to become delegates and then sort and vet those submissions. The secretary of state’s office is charged only with posting the list of accepted names online.
According to Mahood, the spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, the Trump campaign’s request to alter the list “would have been considered” had it been submitted prior to the deadline.