Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Republican President-elect Donald Trump's pick for national security adviser in his future administration, recently met with Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party founded by literal Nazis after World War II, the New York Times reported on Monday.
Strache announced the meeting with Flynn on Facebook at the same time he announced his organization was allying with Russian leader Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia.
Austrians recently voted to reject the Freedom Party's presidential nominee Norbert Hofer by a 6.6% margin. But the Times noted the "Euroskeptic, anti-elite, anti-foreigner, anti-Islam and anti-globalization" party has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity after decades of careful rebranding designed to mask its roots as a refuge for ex-Nazis in the 1950s following the defeat of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
The first leader of the Freedom Party was former SS officer Anton Reinthaller, and Strache's direct predecessor was the late Joerg Haider, who called the Nazi camps where Jews were gassed to death "punishment facilities."
"This is not just any opposition party," former State Department official and Johns Hopkins University professor Daniel Serwer told the Huffington Post. "It is one with Nazi sympathies."
The Freedom Party's far-right ideology is not so far on the political spectrum from Flynn, who serves on the board of an anti-Islam group, praised racist Breitbart troll Milo Yiannopoulos' bravery and spread untrue rumors about Democrat Hillary Clinton's supposed involvement in covering up sex crimes on Twitter. Nor is Flynn out of place in the future Trump administration, in which the chief strategist role will go to former Breitbart chief executive Stephen Bannon — a man who openly flaunted the support of the white nationalist alt-right movement and whose selection was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and U.S. neo-Nazis.
White nationalists in the United States have celebrated Trump's victory as their own, which isn't surprising given the real estate mogul's rise has been intertwined with a rise in hate crimes and deep-seated hostility among many of his supporters towards Muslims and people of color. At a recent conference in D.C., National Policy Institute director Richard B. Spencer led hundreds of assembled neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-semites in cheers of "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"
Flynn's discussion with Strache thus is more than a little concerning, given the retired general will have future President Donald Trump's ears on every issue concerning the military, foreign policy and national security.
In his Facebook post, the Times wrote, Strache offered to act as an intermediary to Putin's Russia, which the CIA has accused of pro-Trump cyberattacks on Democrats during the election. He also added "the Freedom Party continues to gain international influence."