Trump talks with white nationalist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago dinner
Former President Trump dined and conversed with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday night, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Why it matters: Trump's direct engagement with a man labeled a "white supremacist" by the Justice Department, one week after declaring his 2024 candidacy, is likely to draw renewed outrage over the former president's embrace of extremists.
- Fuentes, who frequently promotes racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, had been spotted with Ye at Mar-a-Lago, but reports erroneously suggested he did not have dinner with the former president.
What they're saying: "Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about," Trump said in a statement.
- A Trump spokesman did not provide comment on additional reporting about the dinner. Fuentes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Bigotry, hate, and antisemitism have absolutely no place in America - including at Mar-A-Lago," White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said Saturday in a statement.
- "Holocaust denial is repugnant and dangerous, and it must be forcefully condemned,” the statement added.
Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the dinner conversation told Axios that Trump "seemed very taken" with Fuentes, impressed that the 24-year-old was able to rattle off statistics and recall speeches dating back to his 2016 campaign.
- Paraphrasing the conversation, the source said Fuentes told the president he preferred him to be "authentic," and that Trump seemed scripted and unlike himself during his recent 2024 campaign announcement speech.
- Trump responded, “You like it better when I just speak off the cuff," the source said. Fuentes replied that he did, calling Trump an "amazing" president when he was unrestrained. "There was a lot of fawning back and forth," the source added.
Fuentes told Trump that he represented a side of Trump's base that was disappointed with his newly cautious approach, especially with what some far-right activists view as a lack of support for those charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
- Trump didn't disagree with Fuentes, but said he has advisers who want him to read off teleprompters and be more "presidential." Notably, Trump referred to himself as a politician, which he has been loathe to do in the past.
- Fuentes also told Trump that he would crush potential 2024 Republican rivals in a primary, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump asked for Fuentes' opinion on other candidates as well.
Trump at one point turned to Ye and said, "I really like this guy. He gets me," according to the source.
- "To be honest, I don't believe the president knew who the hell [Fuentes] was," the source added.
Trump asked if Fuentes was on social media such as Truth Social, the former president's alternative to Twitter.
- Fuentes told Trump that he was on Truth Social but had been banned from the social media platform Gettr because Trump adviser Jason Miller, the CEO of the company, wasn't a fan of his.
- Trump asked whether it was because Fuentes was on the "fringe" of his supporter base, the source said. Fuentes acknowledged that he was, saying he's "one of those people who got banned from everything."
Driving the news: Ye, whose Twitter account was recently restored after being restricted for anti-Semitic comments, posted a video on Thursday night titled "Mar-a-Lago debrief."
- Ye claims in the video that Trump was "really impressed" with Fuentes because "unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he's actually a loyalist."
- A source familiar with the conversation told Axios Trump took a phone call during the dinner, and his demeanor toward Ye seemed to change when he got off the call. Trump made some nasty comments about Ye's ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, and told the rapper to pass them on.
- Ye, who has lost major sponsorships over his anti-Semitism and recent far-right associations, has said he wants to run for president in 2024. The rapper claims Trump started "screaming" at him at the dinner and told him he would lose — "most perturbed" by Ye asking Trump to be his running mate.
Between the lines: The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Fuentes was not present at the Mar-a-Lago dinner with Ye, citing a source familiar with the matter.
- Ye tweeted out a screenshot of a group text with Fuentes on Thursday night in which a censored participant accuses a Trump adviser of being the source for the Daily Beast story.
- Disgraced far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who appears with Ye in his "Mar-a-Lago debrief" video, is also in the "YE24" group chat.
Flashback: Truth Social, Trump's social media platform, sparked backlash by verifying Fuentes' account in February.
- Fuentes first gained notoriety after attending the white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
- Trump was heavily criticized at the time for his response to the racist violence.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting and a statement from Trump and the White House.