(Daily Beast) The leader of a white nationalist group whose members marched in the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville proudly posted pictures on Wednesday from a visit to the White House.
Patrick Casey, who heads the group Identity Evropa, posted the pictures to Twitter, in which he is seen posing on the White House grounds on what he described as a visit to “pay my respects.”
“Evropa has landed at the White House!” Casey tweeted.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters emailed The Daily Beast that Casey “was one of more than twenty-five thousand people who came to the White House Fall Garden Tour, which is open to the public. Free tickets are made available to anyone who wants to attend.”
Though Casey’s post was dated Wednesday, Walters’ explanation suggests that he visited the White House on either October 20 or 21, when the Fall Garden Tour was held. That would explain Casey’s access to the White House’s south front. Sources familiar with how the Trump White House operates had told The Daily Beast that Casey could not have reached the location in which he was pictured on the kind of tour that occurs more commonly than the garden ones.
Casey didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding these discrepancies.
Still, his triumphant social media posting underscores the degree to which the president has become a magnet for white nationalists, even as he seeks to downplay his ties to them. The pictures from Casey’s White House visit were tweeted on the same day that President Donald Trump held a press conference in which he bristled when a reporter questioned whether his embrace of “nationalism” encouraged white nationalists. Trump responded by claiming that the question itself was “racist.” The reporter who asked the question, PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor, is African American.
Identity Evropa is a highly controversial group. Several of its members marched with other white power groups in Charlottesville, and its previous leader was found guilty in a misdemeanor trial for his role. Since taking over Identity Evropa late last year, Casey has sought to distance the group from that fatal rally by adopting a public image focused on white “identitarianism.”
The group’s motto, “You will not replace us,” refers both to the idea that non-white groups are intent on eliminating white Americans and echoes the “Jews will not replace us” slogan that white supremacists chanted in Charlottesville.
Casey isn’t the only far-right extremist to visit the White House during the Trump administration. Trump met briefly in August with Lionel Lebron, a leading promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges that top Democrats are pedophiles who participate in Satanic rituals. That Oval Office meeting—and accompanying photo op—led to a scramble within the West Wing to figure out how, exactly, Lebron was granted such access.
Those familiar with how the Oval Office works noted that the only way President Trump would have sat for a picture like the one with Lebron would be if a senior official vouched for the guest and waved him or her in. Ultimately, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was forced to address the matter, writing in a statement that “a large group came through the White House for a brief tour and a photo,” without offering further explanation on the bizarre episode.
This article has been updated with additional reporting.