Trump Admin Goes to Bat for British Far Right Figure

Orlin Wagner/AP

This is wild. You may have heard of the British far-right activist Tommy Robinson (actually a pseudonym for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). He’s the founder of something called the English Defense League, a far-right nationalist group with a record of organized violence against British Muslims. Think of it as some variant of US alt-right types but with a specific focus on anti-Muslim xenophobia. Pam Geller, just more terrible and violent. He’s currently serving a year sentence for breaking a UK law that bars certain kinds of publicity of on-going criminal trials.

That’s “Tommy Robinson”.

Now, remember Sam Brownback, the former GOP Senator and later Governor of Kansas who close to bankrupted the state? He’s now President Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Usually Republicans look to some one like this to speak out for Christian groups in majority Muslim countries with maybe a smattering of attention to other religions to keep up appearances. (To be clear, Christian groups are currently targeted for repression and violence in a number of Middle Eastern countries at the moment – Copts in Egypt, Christian groups in Iraq, etc. Obviously there are many global cases of religious persecutions facing other religions.)

But according to Reuters, when Brownback was meeting with the British Ambassador to the US recently he pressed him for better treatment of Robinson and apparently threatened that the US would go public with the criticism if his government did not. “Brownback told [Ambassador Sir Kim Darroch] that if Britain did not treat Robinson more sympathetically, the Trump administration might be compelled to criticize Britain’s handling of the case, according to the two sources in contact with organizers of the planned pro-Robinson demonstration.”

The British were apparently bewildered by why a roving ambassador for religious freedom would lobby on behalf of a notorious anti-Muslim bigot with a record of violence in the UK. I’m frankly not as bewildered. In the Brownback/Trump milieu anti-Muslim activism is frequently seen as a de facto express of religious liberty activism on behalf of Christians. But separate from that, this isn’t the kind of getting in each other’s business the US and Great Britain usually do with each other.

There’s no specific evidence. But the Reuters story was published tonight. It seems hard to figure that this bit of information wasn’t shaken free by President Trump’s apparent attempts over the last 48 hours to topple the current British government.

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