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Donald Trump’s Response to the Nick Fuentes Controversy Is Classic Trump

Amid backlash over a meeting last week with Kanye West, also known as Ye, and controversial political commentator Nick Fuentes, Donald Trump called West a “seriously troubled man” and denied knowing Fuentes.

SO WHAT

The former president has always bucked conventional political wisdom by being slow to distance himself from radioactive figures.

WHAT HAPPENED

In a Truth Social post on Sunday, Trump responded to criticism from fellow Republicans about his dinner Tuesday with West, Fuentes and right-wing rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulos – all three of whom have been accused of anti-Semitism.

“So I help a seriously troubled man, who just happens to be black, Ye (Kanye West), who has been decimated in his business and virtually everything else, and who has always been good to me, by allowing his request for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, alone, so that I can give him very much needed ‘advice,'” Trump said.

  • In an earlier Truth Social post, Trump confirmed the meeting but said he did not know who Fuentes was.
  • West posted a video to Twitter Friday in which he claimed Trump insulted Kim Kardashian, West’s ex-wife, said he was “really impressed” by Fuentes and became upset when West asked the former president to be his running mate.
  • Trump “started basically screaming at me at the table, telling me I am going to lose,” West, who has launched his own 2024 presidential bid, said in the video.

At the dinner, Fuentes and West challenged Trump on why he hadn’t issued blanket pardons for everyone involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, NBC News reported Friday.

BIG PICTURE

Trump’s unwillingness to back down in the face of media pressure has been one of the hallmarks of his brand and endeared him to supporters.

  • In 2016, then-presidential candidate Trump was criticized for initially declining to disavow  former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke during a CNN appearance.
  • During a 2020 presidential campaign debate against Joe Biden, Trump refused to denounce the QAnon movement, saying: “I know nothing about QAnon.”

The jury’s still out on whether Trump’s association with fringe figures will be more of a political liability in 2024 or a mark of outsider authenticity like it was in 2016.

  • Members within Trump’s own camp have expressed concerns about the latest controversy.
  • “To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this,” David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, wrote on Twitter Friday. “Antisemites deserve no quarter among American leaders, right or left.”
  • “This is a f—ing nightmare,” one longtime Trump adviser told NBC News on condition of anonymity.

OK, but: As Zack Stanton and Garret Ross pointed out in Politico Playbook over the weekend, Trump’s comments about “very fine people on both sides” of 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right Rally” drew criticism from top Republicans.

  • “But ultimately, most of those same GOP leaders came around and eventually ended up supporting Trump anyway.”
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