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On Thursday, POLITICO reported that Donald Trump's former campaign manager and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has signed on with the campaign of Bernie Moreno, a Republican hopeful in the Ohio Senate race.
"Conway, who managed Trump's successful 2016 presidential bid, is part of a broader campaign organization that Moreno announced Thursday," reported Alex Isenstadt. "In a statement, she called Moreno 'a conservative, a political outsider, and a successful businessman just like President Donald J. Trump.'"
This comes as Conway, a controversial White House official who became infamous for her defenses of "alternative facts" and violations of ethics rules, has sought a media tour to rehabilitate her image.
"Moreno is running in a crowded Republican primary in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman," continued the report. "The leading contenders, including former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former state party chairwoman Jane Timken, have been aggressively attaching themselves to Trump."
"Moreno, a technology executive and luxury car dealer who donated to the former president's reelection effort, recently launched his campaign with a video stressing the need to 'protect Trump's victories,'" the report added. "He has highlighted his support from several Trump administration officials, including former acting director of national intelligence Ric Grenell and former U.S. ambassadors Jamie McCourt and Ed McMullen."
Trump has not yet made an endorsement in the race, which takes place in a traditionally conservative-leaning swing state he won twice with comfortable margins. However he has taken a close interest; last month, he summoned the four major candidates, including Moreno, for a vetting session at his Mar-a-Lago country club that observers likened to an episode of his old NBC reality show "The Apprentice."
On Tuesday, it was reported that a group of former advisers to Donald Trump, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's guidance, would launch a new right-wing nonprofit aimed at "perpetuating former President Trump's populist policies," according to Axios. The new foundation is just the latest in a long string of recent announcements about Trump-centered think-tank-style organizations popping up in Washington aimed at doing Trump's bidding, all while the former president attempts to maintain control of the Republican Party from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The new nonprofit America First Policy Institute, which lists Ivanka Trump and Kushner as "informal advisors," will boast a 35-person crew with an operating budget of $20 million in its first year. In a flashy ad, the group claims it will be "the heart of [an] effort" to save the "soul of this country."
The group's noteworthy hires include former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who will serve as the organization's vice chair, former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. "In the coming months, the group plans to take a large office space near the U.S. Capitol as a symbol that it'll fight to be a muscular, well-heeled center of the future of conservatism," Axios further reported.
Furthermore, the group seemingly seeks to impact conversations in the nation's capital the very same way the conservative think-tank heavyweight, The Heritage Foundation, has long done in D.C. policy, potentially sparking a rivalry between the two non-profits. Heritage recently hired former Vice President Mike Pence, but it remains to be seen exactly how it will seek to influence policy on Capitol Hill in a post-Trump era.
Asked by Salon about the new pro-Trump group, Heritage vice president of communications Rob Bluey said his organization looks forward to working with America First Policy. "The Heritage Foundation congratulates the talented team at America First Policy Institute and we look forward to working with them on a range of policy issues. Heritage already has strong relationships with many of America First Policy Institute's leaders, including Brooke Rollins, from their service in the Trump administration," Bluey told Salon via email on Thursday. "Heritage has a long history of cooperating on policy solutions with conservative organizations. The America First Policy Institute and the other new conservative groups in Washington are welcome allies. It's more important than ever to work together on positive solutions for the American people while also countering the left-wing agenda from the White House and woke corporations."
While the America First Policy Institute appears to be the largest and most prominent pro-Trump think tank to emerge since the former president left office, there are a series of other groups in D.C. being launched. Pence announced in early April that he would start his own think tank called Advancing American Freedom, alongside such Trump allies as Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway. "Advancing American Freedom plans to build on the success of the last four years by promoting traditional Conservative values and promoting the successful policies of the Trump Administration," Pence said in a statement upon the group's launch.
Another group that looks to shape a post-Trump Washington includes a legal enterprise founded by anti-immigration Trump adviser Stephen Miller, the America First Legal Foundation, which aims to give the Biden administration headaches in the courts. "Those who believe in America First must not shy away from using our legal system to defend our society and our families from any unlawful actions by the left," Miller said in a statement on the group's launch. "Those looking to hold the new administration in Washington to account finally have their answer. Our self-imposed policy of legal disarmament is now over." Miller's group says it will aim to hamstring the Democratic agenda by creating a coalition of attorneys and state attorney generals dedicated to stalling or stopping Biden's policies from being implemented.
The new Trump organizations come on the heels of the apparent collapse of Charlie Kirk and Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Falkirk Center at Liberty University, amid the growing scandal around Falwell that has driven away Kirk and several other pro-Trump figures. "Now, less than two years later, Falkirk's high-profile founders are gone, and Liberty is rethinking the center's future in a post-Trump world," The New York Times reported.
Although The Falkirk Center claimed to be a conservative think tank, it has operated more as a communications firm, fixated on cable news hits on Fox News and having its "Falkirk fellows" promote the center on social media. That said, it often appears that right-wing media is precisely where conservative discussions of policy occur, although often boiled down to the most simplistic and incendiary talking points.
In an interview with the New York Times, filmmaker Caolan Robertson explained how he first began creating videos that stirred conflict for racists.
It began in 2018 when right-wing activist Tommy Robinson made a video saying he was punched by a Black man at a train station in Rome.
"The video was viewed more than 2.8 million times, and it prompted news stories across the right-wing tabloids in Britain, where Mr. Robinson was rapidly gaining notoriety for his anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views," said the Times.
Robertson helped Robinson make the video, learning how important it was to use key pieces to craft the perfect video to enrage the right as anti-immigrant sentiments grew across Europe. The most successful videos played on hate and stoked dangerous rage.
"We would choose the most dramatic moment — or fake it and make it look more dramatic," said Robertson. "We realized that if we wanted a future on YouTube, it had to be driven by confrontation. Every time we did that kind of thing, it would explode well beyond anything else."
He went on to craft many videos for the far right, perfectly crafted for the "echo chamber." The way the algorithm works is that YouTube takes the characteristics in a video and look for others like it. It's how people have been sucked into QAnon conspiracies by being fed more and more information to confirm delusions.
"It can create these very radical people who are like gurus," said YouTube engineer Guillaume Chaslot. He's spoken out against the way the algorithms work. "In terms of watch time, a guru is wonderful."
When Robertson left the "movement" he wasn't believed at first. Now he's coming forward to out his previous colleagues.
"Raw footage of the episode in Rome, provided by Mr. Robertson and reviewed by The New York Times, shows that the YouTube video was edited to give the false impression that Mr. Robinson was threatened," the report explained. "The full footage shows he was the aggressor."
The more successful the videos were, the more videos they made. If the idea of strategically editing videos to confirm a false story sounds familiar, that's because there are far-right activists in the U.S. who have employed the same tactic for years. They have yet to come forward and reveal their methods as Robertson has.
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