Trump lashes out in ‘racist’ attack on Elizabeth Warren bill, benefitting White House staffer’s husband

The bill would affirm the status of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, and is opposed by a company represented by a Trump staffer's husband

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 09 May 2019 14:24 BST
Elizabeth Warren said she didn't want her face and name to be used to legitimise the network
Elizabeth Warren said she didn't want her face and name to be used to legitimise the network (AP)

Donald Trump has lashed out at an obscure Native American rights bill supported by Elizabeth Warren, in an attack that has been denounced as racist and proof that the president is doing a favour for a staffer’s lobbyist husband.

Mr Trump’s attack came on Twitter, where he employed similar language to that used earlier by Matt Schlapp, a lobbyist who represents a management firm that owns a casino that would be threatened by the Warren-backed bill. Mr Schlapp also happens to be the husband of Mercedes Schlapp, the White House strategic communications director.

“Republicans shouldn’t vote for HR 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahotas) Warren,” Mr Trump wrote, referring to the bill number in the House, and to his racist nickname for the Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate. “It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

Mr Schlapp, for his part, had tweeted hours earlier to highlight that the bill would benefit the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe over his client, Twin River Management Group, which owns a casino in nearby Rhode Island that would compete with a planned casino the Mashpee want to build. His tweet also implicitly referenced Ms Warren’s claim that she is distantly related to a Native American tribe.

Soon the “full House will vote to reward [senator] Elizabeth Warren with … wait for it … an INDIAN casino in Massachusetts,” Mr Schlapp wrote.

Mr Schlapp is a co-founder of Cove Strategies, a lobbying firm that has been paid $30,000 just this year to advocate behalf of Twin River Management Group in Washington and the White House on casinos and gambling issues, including HR 312 specifically.

Other lobbying companies hired by Twin River Management Group this year to lobby on those issues include Black Diamond Strategies, which includes among its staff Rick Wiley, the national political director for Mr Trump’s 2016 primary campaign. Mr Wiley is not listed on Senate lobbying disclosure forms as working on these issues personally, however.

Soon after the president’s tweet, HR 312 was pulled from the House floor, leading to claims that Mr Trump was acting out on behalf of Mr and Ms Schlapp.

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“I’m sure this racist lie has nothing to do with the fact that Matt Schlap — Trump’s staffer’s husband — is lobbying against the bill,” representative Ruben Gallego tweeted.

The bill in question would reaffirm the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reservation as trust land in Massachusetts. The Trump administration took steps last year that damaged the group’s ability to move forward with its Taunton casino plans. The tribe, which was first recognised in 2007, needs Congressional approval of its status as a Native American tribe after the Interior Department took efforts to cut its federal tribal status last year.

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