Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is among the latest additions to the sea of white men that President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly courting to lead his State Department. On Saturday, the Washington Examiner reported that Trump’s transition team was contemplating whether to install Rohrabacher as Secretary of State and make former U.N. ambassador John Bolton his deputy as part of a “consensus package.”
Then, on Monday morning, Rohrabacher appeared on Fox News to outline what the State Department might look like under his tenure. Priority number one: strengthening the United States’ bonds with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I agree very heavily with the president and our president-elect, especially in trying to establish a positive relation with Russia in order to defeat radical Islam,” said Rohrabacher on Fox and Friends.
Denouncing what he described as the Cold War mindset of some of his colleagues in Congress, he added: “Russia and the people of Russia are good people, and they have a chance to work with them to defeat this evil that threatens the planet right now.”
Rohrabacher, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s oversight subcommittee, has long been one of the loudest congressional voices calling for friendship with Russia. Last month, Politico ran a profile that went so far as to call him “Putin’s favorite congressman” in the headline. The profile reported that Rohrabacher even met privately with a “Putin confidant” last year during an official visit to Moscow.
Rather than being a liability, Rohrabacher’s affection for the Russian government appears to have endeared him to the Trump transition team. The president-elect has frequently expressed his admiration for Putin and suggested that U.S.-Russia relations would improve under his own presidency.
Putin has returned some of the praise, albeit in cooler terms. And he may have given Trump even more than kind words: National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers said in November that “a conscious effort by a nation-state” had resulted in the leak of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails, an incident which had done serious harm to Trump’s election rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Russia has also aided other far-right nationalists across the West, using both overt and covert means. The German nationalist party AfD has assiduously cultivated ties with Putin’s United Russia, and France’s National Front has sought financing from Russian banks. In the run-up to a recent national vote in Italy, websites connected to the Russian government swarmed the country with misinformation; German intelligence agencies also believe Putin will try to interfere in that country’s upcoming federal elections.
American white nationalists, in turn, have embraced Putin as an eastern bulwark against multiculturalism, immigration, and other challenges to white supremacy.
“They are our barrier to the Oriental invasion of our homeland and the great protector of Christendom,” former Ku Klux Klan lawyer Sam Dickson told the New York Times in an article published on Saturday. “I admire the Russian people. They are the strongest white people on earth.”
“I think we should be pro-Russia because Russia is the great white power that exists in the world,” white supremacist Richard Spencer told The Nation in July.
If Rohrabacher does not become a member of the Trump administration, he will continue to serve in Congress, where his pro-Putin advocacy will likely find a more sympathetic ear at the White House — and from his other Republican colleagues.