Beyer Seeks Details, Communications On Meeting Between Sec. Ross And Prominent White Nationalist, Holocaust Denier
Washington, July 3, 2019
Rep. Don Beyer today sent an oversight letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross seeking details about communications and at least one meeting between Ross and white nationalist and Holocaust denier Charles C. Johnson. The meeting was first revealed in emails, enclosed in Beyer’s letter and copied below, which were obtained by Democracy Forward via a Freedom of Information Act request.
“I write seeking details on meeting(s) you held last year with Charles C. Johnson. Johnson, a white nationalist, conspiracy theorist, fake news purveyor, and Holocaust denier, exchanged emails with you requesting two separate meetings in June and October of 2018. … the meeting reportedly took place and you exchanged details about it with him from your personal email account. I believe you owe the American people and their Representatives an explanation about this meeting, given the position of public trust which you hold.
“Johnson addressed requests to both your personal and official email accounts for meetings which Commerce Department staff seemed to regard as having a bearing on official business. …Conducting official business of this kind via personal email would be inappropriate and potentially illegal, as you are doubtless aware.
“Given the lack of clarity around these meetings, I ask that you respond with answers to the following questions:
1. How many times have you met with Charles C. Johnson, whether in your official capacity as Secretary of Commerce, or informally, since you became Secretary?
2. Where have these meetings taken place, and when?
3. Who participated in the June 25, 2018 meeting between Charles C. Johnson and yourself? What topics did you discuss, and what subsequent dialogue or policy changes resulted from the meeting(s)?
4. Please provide any emails sent from your personal account related to official business which you exchanged with Charles C. Johnson.
5. What came of Charles C. Johnson’s October 2018 request to discuss a “national security matter” with you? Why did he direct such a request to the Commerce Department?
Rep. Beyer is the sponsor in the House of the bipartisan NO HATE Act, legislation to strengthen the response by local, state, and federal law enforcement to the rising incidence of hate crimes.
Text of the letter follows below.
July 3, 2019
The Honorable Wilbur Ross, Secretary
Dear Secretary Ross:
I write seeking details on meeting(s) you held last year with Charles C. Johnson. Johnson, a white nationalist, conspiracy theorist, fake news purveyor, and Holocaust denier, exchanged emails with you requesting two separate meetings in June and October of 2018 (see attached correspondence obtained by Democracy Forward via Freedom of Information Act request). In your correspondence you agreed to meet with Johnson on Wednesday, June 25, 2018; the meeting reportedly took place and you exchanged details about it with him from your personal email account. I believe you owe the American people and their Representatives an explanation about this meeting, given the position of public trust which you hold.
The attached emails show a concerning degree of familiarity between Johnson—who has been banned from Twitter for threatening violence to a Black Lives Matter activist—and a member of the President’s Cabinet. Johnson referred to a recent, prior conversation between you, and sought at least two meetings with you. Both of his requests were referred to your assistant. It is unclear from the available correspondence how many meetings between you took place, where they took place, and what you discussed, but it seems clear that Johnson’s highly objectionable background did not pose a problem for you in accepting his meeting request.
Additionally, Johnson addressed requests to both your personal and official email accounts for meetings which Commerce Department staff seemed to regard as having a bearing on official business. When asked about the second meeting request, which he described to you as being of “international import,” Johnson described the meeting’s subject to a journalist as being a “national security matter.” Conducting official business of this kind via personal email would be inappropriate and potentially illegal, as you are doubtless aware. Johnson himself reportedly assisted the late activist and researcher Peter Smith in his efforts to contact Russian hackers and Wikileaks in order to obtain hacked emails.
Given the lack of clarity around these meetings, I ask that you respond with answers to the following questions:
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Donald S. Beyer Jr.
 Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, “Activist who met with congressmen about 'DNA' posted about black 'violence gene,'” NBC, January 17, 2019 https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/activist-who-met-congressmen-about-dna-posted-about-black-violence-n959931
 Ben Collins, “Alt-Right Media Framed Wrong Person in Car Attack, Labeled Him ‘Anti-Trump Druggie,’” The Daily Beast, August 13, 2017 https://www.thedailybeast.com/alt-right-media-framed-wrong-person-in-car-attack-labeled-him-anti-trump-druggie
 J.K. Trotter, “What Is Chuck Johnson, and Why? The Web’s Worst Journalist, Explained” Gawker, December 9, 2014 https://gawker.com/what-is-chuck-johnson-and-why-the-web-s-worst-journal-1666834902
 Anti-Defamation League, Letter to the Honorable Matthew Gaetz, Member of Congress, February 1, 2018 https://www.adl.org/news/letters/adl-letter-to-congressman-matthew-gaetz-regarding-charles-johnson
 Alexander Nazaryan, “Why did right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross?” Yahoo News, May 14, 2019 https://news.yahoo.com/why-did-rightwing-troll-charles-c-johnson-want-to-meet-with-commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-090000636.html
 Dylan Byers, “Troll Charles Johnson banned from Twitter,” Politico, May 26, 2016 https://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/troll-charles-johnson-banned-from-twitter-207688
 See Alexander Nazaryan, Yahoo News, above
 Ben Schreckinger, “GOP Researcher Who Sought Clinton Emails Had Alt-Right Help,” Politico, July 11, 2017 https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/11/gop-researcher-who-sought-clinton-emails-had-alt-right-help-215359