A Los Angeles attorney who advocates for the creation of a “white ethno-state” is on an official list of Donald Trump's Republican convention delegates published Monday night by state election officials.
William Johnson, a self-described white separatist who is the chairman of the American Freedom Party, is among the delegates pledged to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee published by the California Secretary of State's office.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Trump’s campaign said Johnson’s inclusion on the published list of delegates was an error.
“Upon careful review of computer records, the inclusion of a potential delegate that had previously been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in February 2016 was discovered,” Tim Clark, Trump’s California campaign director, said in the statement. “This was immediately corrected and a final list, which does not include this individual, was submitted for certification.”
But state officials said the billionaire may not have any way to formally cut him from the list. Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said California election code deals with selection and certification of delegates, but not their removal.
“They submitted a delegate list to our office yesterday, which was the deadline,” Mahood said. “They attempted to submit a revised list today, which we informed them we would not be accepting because it’s past the deadline.”
In practice, Johnson could simply not attend the Republican National Convention, where he would be replaced by an alternate delegate.
A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.
In California, Republican voters seeking to become convention delegates apply directly to their candidates’ campaigns, which then sort through the submissions and select their slate of delegates. These names are later submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.
Democrats wasted little time in attacking Trump after Mother Jones broke the news of Johnson's inclusion on the delegate list Tuesday afternoon.
“Donald Trump is the candidate that will Make America Hate Again,” Mark Paustenbach, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “Trump’s racist, xenophobic candidacy continues to fuel a resurgence of white nationalism in the United States, and to elevate a man like this shows that Trump has neither the temperament nor judgment to serve as president.”
In an interview with The Times, Johnson said he received an email from the Trump campaign on Tuesday afternoon confirming that his name “was erroneously listed as a potential delegate.”
Johnson said he had advocated for Trump in recent months, setting up robo-calls supporting the candidate in seven different states, but not California. Johnson said he also created a “crisis hotline to be able to handle people who have been traumatized or vandalized supporting Trump.”
Johnson, who unsuccessfully ran for a judgeship in Los Angeles County in 2008, did not mince words when asked by a reporter to explain his politics.
“I would like a separate white ethno-state.... I think diversity and multiculturalism is a failure, and I think it's going to destroy civilization,” he said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the American Freedom Party as an organization founded by “racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule.” Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the California branch of the Anti-Defamation League, said groups like the American Freedom Party highlight a tonal shift in the white supremacist movement, away from brash displays of violence and toward a subtler approach.
“What these individuals do is they kind of use pseudo-intellectual racism to articulate their views, and they attach themselves to national topics, be it immigration or the elections currently, and insert themselves into the conversation,” she previously told the Los Angeles Times. Johnson was one of the keynote speakers at Camp Comradery last year, a national gathering of white separatists in Bakersfield, according to Mendelson and the American Freedom Party’s website.
Trump, who has often been criticized for his controversial statements about Mexicans and a call to deny Muslims access to the country, ran into trouble earlier in his campaign when he was slow to disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump's other California delegates include more established figures like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Harmeet K. Dhillon, vice chair of the state's Republican Party.
FOR THE RECORD
4:39 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of Harmeet K. Dhillon, vice chair of the California Republican Party, as Harmeey.
With Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropping out of the race, California's June 7 primary will serve as little more than a coronation for Trump.
Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said Johnson is well-known in extremist circles, and his appearance among Trump's delegates highlights the way this year's election cycle has served to legitimize voices that were previously considered fringe.
“This white nationalist is someone that any respectable, mainstream candidate should leave skid marks running from,” Levin said.
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Times staff writers Michael Finnegan in New York and David Lauter in Washington contributed to this report.