Senior Trump campaign lawyers last year founded a small law firm working for Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican House candidate who has previously promoted QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
While federal filings show that Elections LLC is primarily collecting fees from the President's campaign and the Republican National Committee, it also works for a number of Congressional candidates and no more than Ms. Greene, underscoring the links between QAnon and Mr. .Trump and his inner circle. The most recent example came Thursday night when President Trump repeatedly refused to turn down QAnon in a televised town hall.
Ms. Greene is one of several Republican candidates who openly advocate the collection of bogus and bizarre theories advocated by supporters of QAnon that have been identified by the F.B.I as a potential domestic terrorist threat. and whoever warned former President Barack Obama on Wednesday infiltrated the mainstream Republican Party. QAnon falsely imagines a satanic cabal of pedophile democrats planning against Mr. Trump, playing in anti-Semitic tropics and stirring up violence in the real world – and was presented in detail by Ms Greene in videos.
Elections L.L.C. was founded last year by Justin Clark, deputy campaign manager for Mr. Trump, and Stefan Passantino, a former top ethics attorney at Trump White House. Matthew Morgan, the Trump campaign attorney, is also a partner with the firm. Ms. Greene's campaign has made 14 payments to the company since last year, totaling nearly $ 70,000. This is the largest part of any convention campaign.
Mr. Passantino appears in records filed with the Georgian Foreign Minister as a lawyer who involved Ms. Greene's campaign committee, although the full scope of his work for the candidate is unclear. He also does legal work for a Georgia political activist, Jason D. Boles, who is a personal friend of Ms. Greene and who helped set up her campaign. (Mr Boles has recently been the subject of controversy after it was found he helped fund efforts to infiltrate and discredit constituencies in North Carolina.)
Mr. Passantino served as the White House's assistant ethics policy attorney until 2018, including dealing with personal financial information related to the President's eldest daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump. Last year he was hired by the Trump Organization to investigate Democrats in the House of Representatives. Part of the money the Trump campaign donated to Elections L.L.C. was also addressed to him, federal records show, although it is not clear for what work.
Neither Mr. Clark, Mr. Morgan, nor Mr. Passantino commented on this story. A statement from the Trump campaign read: "Elections L.L.C. is a law firm like many others who do campaign work. Like any other law firm, their lawyers have clients who have no relationship with any other lawyer in the firm or their clients. "
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The campaign did not elaborate on this, nor did it indicate whether Mr Passantino was the only lawyer who had worked on Mrs Greene's behalf. Ms. Greene's campaign didn't respond to requests for comment, but earlier this year it informed Open Secrets, a Center for Responsive Politics website, that Mr. Passantino was her lawyer and Elections L.L.C. performed compliance work in connection with election documents.
The fact that a law firm with close ties to the White House is working for one of QAnon's most prominent proponents shows how quickly conspiracy theory has moved from the far right fringe to the center of Republican politics, posing a significant challenge to the party at a time when in which it has already been rejected by many moderate voters.
Ms. Greene has said without evidence that there was "an Islamic invasion of our government offices" after the 2018 elections. She once questioned whether a plane actually crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and said we have "A golden opportunity to take down this global cabal of pedophiles who worship Satan." She also suggested that "Saudi Arabia, the Rothschilds and Soros" – referring to George Soros, the financier and advocate of progressive causes – "are the puppet masters funding this global evil."
While some of her comments were condemned by Republicans in the House, Mr. Trump accepted her candidacy, calling her "a future Republican star" and "a real WINNER". He also frequently retweeted posts from QAnon followers. During a controversial exchange at City Hall on Thursday about his promotion of false conspiracy theories, he said of QAnon, “I don't know about this. I know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight very hard against it. "
His campaign has shown an uneven response to QAnon. It canceled a QAnon-affiliated speaker appearance at the Republican National Congress this summer, and last month Vice President Mike Pence canceled an appearance by QAnon supporters.
But campaign officials went out of their way to express their support for Ms. Greene.
"QAnon is not something we focus on," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told MSNBC in August when asked about Ms. Greene. "We have a lot of things that we are working on here in the campaign," he added. "And pursuing various conspiracy theories is not one of them."
Oct. 16, 2020, 3:34 p.m. ET
For her part, Ms. Greene said in an interview published in August with Fox News that QAnon was not the focus of their campaign, adding, "My campaign message all along has been to save America, stop socialism."
The creation of elections L.L.C. Reflects an ongoing pattern of Trump campaign officials collecting payments from new businesses they started as part of the campaign. This practice was honed by ex-campaign manager Brad Parscale before his fall this summer. Mr. Clark started a company called National Public Affairs with Bill Stepien last year, replacing Mr. Parscale as campaign manager in July.
The founders of the L.L.C. Elections, Mr. Clark and Mr. Passantino, are also prominent Partner at Michael Best, a Wisconsin-based law firm with an affiliate lobby and government firm chaired by Reince Priebus, the former R.N.C. Chairman who worked with both men while serving as Mr. Trump's first White House chief of staff. Mr. Clark is on leave from Michael Best, while Mr. Passantino presides over government regulations and public order.
Company managing partner David Krutz said Elections L.L.C. had no affiliation with his company and said Mr. Passantino had "maintained a clear division of labor" between the two companies. (A Michael Best employee, Nathan Groth, also worked for Elections L.L.C.)
Shortly before election day, Ms. Greene seems convinced of victory. Her main opponent, a conservative neurosurgeon named John Cowan, used the slogan “All Conservatives, No Embarrassment” and once told Politico, “She deserves a YouTube channel, not a seat in Congress. She's a circus act. "
But Ms. Greene prevailed with ease in her heavily Republican district, and her Democratic opponent was out of the running.
"The Republican establishment was against me," said Ms. Greene in her victory speech after a runoff election in August. “The DC swamp is against me. And the lying fake news media hate my guts. It's a badge of honor. "
Stephanie Saul contributed to the reporting and Rachel Shorey contributed to the research.