Right-wing British politician Nigel Farage is a person of interest in the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the Guardian reports.
According to the Guardian, Farage is under scrutiny not necessarily because he’s suspected of wrongdoing, but because of his proximity to other individuals that might be connected to the Russian efforts: specifically, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Trump confidant Roger Stone, other Trump associates and President Donald Trump himself.
Farage was formerly the leader of the United Kingdom’s far-right UKIP party, and was one of the architects of the Brexit referendum that resulted in the UK voting to eject themselves from the European Union.
He visited the Ecuadorian embassy in March, where Assange was living in order to prevent being deported to Sweden to be questioned over allegations of sexual assault. When Buzzfeed News asked Farage what he was doing in the building and whether he was there visiting Assange, Farage told them he couldn’t remember.
WikiLeaks released a trove of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election in what U.S. intelligence officials concluded was a Kremlin-backed attempt to undermine the U.S. election.
Farage was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump. He attended the Republican National Convention in July 2016, reportedly met with Trump at a Mississippi campaign stop, and was one of the first international politicians to meet with Trump after his electoral victory. Since then, he’s visited Trump at the White House and dined with him and daughter Ivanka Trump at the Trump International Hotel.
In a November tweet, President Trump suggested that Farage would make an ideal ambassador to the U.S., an idea that was promptly shot down by the UK, who said that the position had “no vacancy.”
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 12, 2016
Farage also has a long association with Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, dating back to Bannon’s time as the head of Breitbart Media. And he’s also reportedly under scrutiny for his ties to Roger Stone, a long-time Trump supporter and adviser.
Stone is a key figure in the investigation into the Russian election hacking. In the midst of the Trump campaign, Stone bragged about having a “back channel” to Assange.
Less than two months before Wikileaks released Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, Stone predicted on Twitter that Podesta’s “time in the barrel” was coming “soon.” He also said that he’s been in contact with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who intelligence officials consider to be an agent of the Kremlin.
In a statement replying to the Guardian report, Farage said that it took him a “long time to finish reading because I am laughing so much.”
Farage denied being a person of interest and denied any ties to Russia, aside from three appearances on Russian propaganda outlet RT in the past 18 months. He said that his meeting with Assange in March was an attempt to interview him.
“This hysterical attempt to associate me with the Putin regime is a result of the liberal elite being unable to accept Brexit and the election of President Trump,” he said.
Much of the focus on Russian attempts to influence democracies abroad have focused on their hacking of the U.S. election, and a later WikiLeaks dump shortly before the French election that seemed intended to aide far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Politicians in the United Kingdom have also questioned, however, whether Russia had a hand in the Brexit vote that Farage championed.
Former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw told Business Insider in February that he thinks the UK government has been suspiciously withholding with information about whether the Kremlin was involved, and that “the public has a right to know” if Russia influenced the Brexit vote.