Trump Campaign Lawyers Are Aiding a Leading Proponent of QAnon

Senior lawyers for the Trump campaign set up a small law firm last year that is working for Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in Georgia with a history of promoting QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory.While federal filings show that the firm, Elections L.L.C., principally collects fees from the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, it also does work for a number of congressional candidates, and none more so than Ms. Greene, underscoring the connections between QAnon and Mr. Trump and his inner circle. The latest example came Thursday night, when President Trump repeatedly declined to disavow QAnon at a televised town hall.Ms. Greene is one of several Republican candidates who openly espouse the collection of bogus and bizarre theories embraced by followers of QAnon, who have been labeled a potential domestic terror threat by the F.B.I. and who former President Barack Obama warned Wednesday were infiltrating the mainstream of the Republican Party. QAnon imagines, falsely, that a Satanic cabal of pedophile Democrats are plotting against Mr. Trump, plays on anti-Semitic tropes and stokes real world violence — and has been expounded on at length by Ms. Greene in videos.Elections L.L.C. was founded last year by Justin Clark, Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, and Stefan Passantino, a former top ethics lawyer in the Trump White House. Matthew Morgan, the Trump campaign’s counsel, is also a partner at the firm. Ms. Greene’s campaign has made 14 payments to the firm since last year, worth nearly $70,000 in total, the most of any congressional campaign.Mr. Passantino appears in records filed with the Georgia secretary of state as the lawyer who incorporated Ms. Greene’s campaign committee, though the full scope of his work for the candidate is unclear. He also does legal work for a Georgia political operative, Jason D. Boles, who is a personal friend of Ms. Greene’s and who helped set up her campaign. (Mr. Boles has been a recent subject of controversy, after it emerged that he had helped bankroll an effort to infiltrate and discredit voting rights groups in North Carolina.)Mr. Passantino worked in the White House as a deputy counsel in charge of ethics policy until 2018, and among other things, he dealt with personal financial disclosures related to the president’s eldest daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump. Last year, he was hired by the Trump Organization to handle investigations by Democrats in the House of Representatives. Some of the money that the Trump campaign has paid to Elections L.L.C. has also been directed to him, federal filings show, though it is not clear for what work.Neither Mr. Clark, Mr. Morgan nor Mr. Passantino commented for this story. In a statement, the Trump campaign said, “Elections L.L.C. is a law firm like many others that do campaign work. Just like any other law firm, its lawyers have clients that have no relationship to other lawyers of the firm or their clients.”

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The campaign did not elaborate further, nor did it say whether Mr. Passantino was the only lawyer who had performed work on Ms. Greene’s behalf. Ms. Greene’s campaign did not reply to requests for comment, but earlier this year she told Open Secrets, a site run by the Center for Responsive Politics, that Mr. Passantino worked as her lawyer and Elections L.L.C. did compliance work related to elections filings.The fact that a law firm with close ties to the White House is doing work for one of the most prominent proponents of QAnon shows how quickly the conspiracy theory has moved from the far-right fringe to the center of Republican politics, presenting a significant challenge to the party at a time when it is already being rejected by many moderate voters.Ms. Greene has said, without evidence, that after the 2018 elections there was “an Islamic invasion into our government offices,” once questioned whether a plane had actually crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and has said we have “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.” She has also suggested that “Saudi Arabia, the Rothschilds, and Soros” — referring to George Soros, the financier and supporter of progressive causes — are “the puppet masters that fund this global evil.”While some of her comments have been condemned by House Republicans, Mr. Trump has embraced her candidacy and called her “a future Republican star” and “a real WINNER!” He has also frequently retweeted postings by QAnon followers. During a contentious exchange at the televised town hall Thursday over his promotion of false conspiracy theories, he said of QAnon: “I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard.” His campaign has presented an uneven response to QAnon. It canceled the appearance of a QAnon-connected speaker at the Republican National Convention this summer, and last month, Vice President Mike Pence canceled an appearance hosted by QAnon supporters. But campaign officials have struggled to explain their support for Ms. Greene.“QAnon is not something that we focus on,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, told MSNBC in August when asked about Ms. Greene. “We have a lot of things that we work on here in the campaign,” he added. “And chasing down various conspiracy theories is not one of them.”Updated Oct. 16, 2020, 7:25 p.m. ETMs. Greene, for her part, said in a Fox News interview published in August that QAnon was not a focus of her campaign, adding, “My campaign message the entire time was save America, stop Socialism.”The creation of Elections L.L.C. reflects an ongoing pattern by Trump campaign officials of collecting payments through new businesses they set up around the campaign, a practice honed by the former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, before his ouster this summer. Mr. Clark also set up a firm called National Public Affairs last year with Bill Stepien, who replaced Mr. Parscale as campaign manager in July. The founders of Elections L.L.C., Mr. Clark and Mr. Passantino, are also both prominent partners at Michael Best, a Wisconsin-based law firm that has an affiliated lobbying and government relations firm chaired by Reince Priebus, the former R.N.C. chairman, who worked with both men while he served as Mr. Trump’s first White House chief of staff. Mr. Clark is on leave from Michael Best, while Mr. Passantino chairs its government regulations and public policy practice. The firm’s managing partner, David Krutz, said that Elections L.L.C. had no affiliation with his firm and said Mr. Passantino “maintained a clear division of work” between the two firms. (An associate at Michael Best, Nathan Groth, has also done work for Elections L.L.C.) With Election Day approaching, Ms. Greene appears to be assured of victory. Her primary opponent, a conservative neurosurgeon named John Cowan, used the slogan “All of the conservative, none of the embarrassment,” and once told Politico, “She deserves a YouTube channel, not a seat in Congress. She’s a circus act.” But Ms. Greene handily prevailed in her heavily Republican district, and her Democratic opponent has dropped out of the race. “The Republican establishment was against me,” Ms. Greene said in her victory speech after a runoff in August. “The D.C. swamp is against me. And the lying fake news media hates my guts. It’s a badge of honor.”Stephanie Saul contributed reporting and Rachel Shorey contributed research.

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