Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday praised a prominent white nationalist and conspiracy theorist, piling onto conservatives’ attempt to shape former national security advisor Susan Rice’s surveillance activity as illegal.
As National Security Advisor under President Obama, Rice acted within the scope of her role when she requested the unmasking of unidentified Americans who communicated with foreign government officials. During targeted and routine surveillance, the names of third-parties are typically masked, but someone with the appropriate security clearance like Rice can legally request access to those names.
Rice’s activity is not illegal or a violation of privacy laws, according to national security experts.
But on Sunday, self-described “documentary filmmaker” and far-right extremist Mike Cernovich published a story on Medium claiming that Rice’s actions provide evidence to President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower.
On Tuesday morning, the president’s son took to Twitter to highlight that misleading report, claiming that Cernovich deserves a Pulitzer Prize.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 4, 2017
Cernovich was one of the leaders behind the Pizzagate conspiracy, writing fake news stories linking Hillary Clinton to pedophilia. Even after a gunman came to Washington, D.C. and fired shots outside the pizza place implicated in the conspiracy, Cernovich claimed that his reports were true.
He also led the conspiracy during the final months of the election that Clinton’s health was failing, a theory that took off across the conservative internet.
The New Yorker recently profiled Cernovich and highlighted his white nationalist proclivities:
On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups. His opponents were beta males, losers, or “cucks” — alt-right slang for “cuckolds.” “To beat a person, you lower his or her social status,” he wrote on Danger and Play. “Logic is pointless.”
Like the rumors about Clinton’s health, the Rice story has also developed legs beyond Cernovich’s corner of the internet. On Monday, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake published a similar report alleging that Rice’s actions highlight problems with U.S. surveillance. That report was picked up by conservative websites including Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the New York Post, and Gateway Pundit. Cernovich responded by claiming that Lake and others plagiarized his report.
Fox News reporter Adam Housley also highlighted the report, leading President Trump to tweet his outrage.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has called on Rice to testify about the report.
“I don’t think we should discount how big a deal it was that Susan Rice was looking at these, and she needs to be asked, did President Obama ask her to do this?” he told reporters. “I think she ought to testify under oath on this.”