Raheem Kassam

🔥Raheem Kassam is one of the self-styled “Bad Boys of Brexit” who appeared grinning alongside Donald Trump in the infamous photo at Trump Tower – in fact, he helped set that meeting up.

His path to that moment of ‘glory’ had led him from being a Conservative activist to UKIP, where he served as chief adviser to Nigel Farage. In 2014 he was appointed London editor of Breitbart News, the extreme right-wing publication funded by Robert Mercer and run by Steve Bannon, which was credited by Farage as having “helped hugely” with Brexit. Kassam has also previously worked for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the influential lobbying group run by Vote Leave CEO Matthew Elliott.

Kassam’s career as a “journalist” began at the right-wing online magazine The Commentator, from which he was sacked for what the publication described as “gross and extreme misconduct”. His writing since then has been marked by a particular animus against Muslims. In 2017 he published his book No Go Zones: How Sharia Law Is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You, to the applause of extreme right-wingers such as Tommy Robinson (grateful, it seems, for all the positive coverage Kassam had given him). The anti-Muslim shock-jock and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was only too delighted to let Kassam plug the book on his InfoWars channel, where Kassam claimed that “there are vast swathes of Europe, and indeed here in the United States now, that are turning into enclaves for migrants…establishing their Koranic law, their Islamic rules.”

Kassam is particularly noted for the abuse he directs at those he sees as political enemies or rivals. For instance, in June 2016 he tweeted that Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should have her “mouth taped shut. And her legs, so she can’t reproduce“. In January 2018, he told Sky News that London had become “a shithole” under Mayor Sadiq Khan, echoing the word used by Donald Trump to describe non-white countries.

His views are seen as extreme even by some within UKIP. Former UKIP leadership candidate Suzanne Evans, for instance, has described him as “toxic”. Kassam had probably not endeared himself to Evans by referring to her in tweets as “a wrinkly old ginger bird” and  “a rotting corpse”.

In September 2014 Kassam accompanied Farage on a trip to the US that helped connect the then UKIP leader to leading far-right ideologues and funders in that country, including Bannon and Robert Mercer. Farage reportedly later wrote that it was this that convinced him and Kassam of “the extraordinary power of online media”. According to the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, “Kassam has been widely held responsible for the implementation of the ‘shock and awful’ TV debate strategy, whereby Farage would make inflammatory, xenophobic comments – such as deploying statistics about foreigners with HIV and referring to a ‘fifth column’ of Muslims in the UK.”

In 2015, Kassam and his close associate Matthew Richardson were sacked as Farage’s advisers after UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn described them as “wrong ‘uns” who wanted to take UKIP “in a direction of some hard right ultra-aggressive American Tea Party movement.”.  O’Flynn observed that they had helped turn Farage into a “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive” man and risked turning the party into a “personality cult”.

Undeterred, in October 2016 Kassam made a bid for the UKIP leadership, describing himself as “the “Faragest of the Faragists“. He was supported in this by the party’s main funder Arron Banks, but withdrew from the contest at the last minute, perhaps realising he had little chance of winning.

His chances had not been improved by his calling for ex-members of fascist organisations such as the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL) to be admitted to the party, or by his having addressed a rally of the far-right anti-Muslim group Pegida in Birmingham earlier that year, alongside Pegida’s German founder Lutz Bachmann. Kassam has also profiled Bachmann, who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred, in glowing terms for Breitbart.

One senior UKIP source was quoted as saying: “He associates with Tommy Robinson and spoke at a Pegida rally… If someone like Kassam wanted to stand as a UKIP candidate for their local council they wouldn’t be allowed. But he’s allowed to publicly disgrace us by standing for leader.”

Kassam’s extreme views were no obstacle to his being appointed managing editor of Breitbart News – quite the opposite. This gave him a high-profile platform to pursue his far-right agenda – and to offer support to the Brexit campaign of Banks, Farage and Leave.EU. It appears that this support may have gone beyond running frequent stories attacking the EU and immigrants.

In October 2017, two whistle-blowers from within UKIP filed complaints over the “unusual arrangements” they claimed the party had made with Breitbart in the months before the referendum. They alleged that individuals paid by Breitbart were working as senior unpaid UKIP volunteers. No such support had been declared to the Electoral Commission (as the law requires) and, if the allegations were true, this would have constituted an indirect – and illegal – political donation by a foreign donor, Breitbart being an American-owned publication. The Guardian quoted UKIP sources expressing alarm at “what they viewed as a ‘deliberate strategy’ by Breitbart to wield influence over the Party in ways that emphasised views against migrants and other far-right positions”.

Nigel Farage

🔥 🇷🇺 Farage is the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip). As well being instrumental in leading the Leave.EU campaign, Farage reportedly played a key role in befriending and connecting key Bad Boys Arron Banks, Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon.

Andy Wigmore has revealed that Robert Mercer introduced Farage and Leave.EU to Cambridge Analytica, the company that used its own database and voter information collected from Facebook in the campaign to help elect Donald Trump. These also proved highly useful to the Brexit campaign. “They were happy to help,” Wigmore explained, “because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers.”

Mercer is a key backer of Donald Trump, who Farage in turn now describes as “absolutely” his friend. Farage has gone out of his way to demonstrate his loyalty to Trump, defending the President’s deeply disturbing response to the violent incidents at Charlottesville in 2017, when Trump blamed “both sides” after a peaceful anti-racist protestor was killed by a neo-Nazi. Farage also appeared in autumn 2017 at rallies in Alabama in support of far-right Republican candidate Roy Moore, despite Moore facing multiple accusations of sexual assault, some of these allegedly committed against minors.

Farage’s history of support for the extreme right reportedly dates back to his years at private school. One school friend has recalled that teenage Farage used to sing an antisemitic song with the refrain “Gas ‘em all, gas ‘em all”. In 2017 Farage attended (and even received a standing ovation) at a rally for the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party in Berlin. He had been invited by his fellow EU Parliament member Beatrix von Storch, a leading member of the AfD and the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister.

Farage has often attacked EU “hyper-regulation” and claimed that the European Union wastes large sums of money.  EU regulation governing MEPs’ parliamentary expenses has proved particularly tricky for Farage and his Ukip colleagues, and his own have come under intense scrutiny.

In 2017 Farage and Raymond Finch MEP were asked to repay around £84,000 paid to their joint “assistant”, Christopher Adams, who was also Ukip’s national nominating officer and was described as one of the party’s “key people” on its website. Parliamentary officials have suspended Adams’s contract because they are not convinced he was actually working as an MEP assistant.

The same investigation looked at the role of Farage’s wife, Kirsten Farage, who had been paid as an assistant to Finch. Finch has been asked to repay more than £20,000 in expenses because the European Parliament’s financial controllers were not convinced she was doing real work as his assistant between 2014 and 2016. During the same period, she was also the full-time office manager for her husband.

Although Farage has little time for European leaders, he has expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin – in fact he has named him as the world leader he admires most.  Farage is also known to have met with Russia’s Ambassador to the UK in 2013 and with another Russian official in the same year, though when questioned about this second meeting by a journalist he initially appeared to “forget” about it and then called an abrupt halt to the interview.

In 2017 Farage was named as a “person of interest” by the US counter-intelligence investigation looking into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This means investigators believe he may have information about the acts that are under investigation.

Farage says he has never visited Russia, but in March 2017 two senior members of his party, Nigel Sussman and Richard Wood, were among a crew of mainly far-right politicians to visit Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. The trip was described by the Moscow Times as a disinformation exercise by the Russian government designed to “help Putin score points at home”. A senior member of Farage’s parliamentary group staff in Brussels, Kevin Ellul Bonic, has been accused of orchestrating a smear campaign against a critic of the Kremlin.

In the run-up to the referendum, Nigel Farage’s office was managed by George Cottrell, who was also Ukip’s co-director of referendum fundraising. Cottrell is a convicted fraudster with a background in the shadiest side of the financial world and links to entities involved in Russian money laundering. Interviewed in November 2017, Farage denied he had accepted money from Russia, though he did not say whether money from Russian sources had flowed into the Brexit campaign.

Farage frequently writes for the extreme right-wing website Breitbart News and has credited its former chief editor Steve Bannon for helping “hugely” with Brexit. Breitbart’s senior editor Raheem Kassam was formerly employed by Farage as his chief-of-staff.

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