WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday that he was “not involved” with Republican efforts to help rapper Kanye West’s long-shot presidential bid.
In recent days, evidence has emerged linking veteran Republican operatives with a push in some states to have West’s name included on the 2020 presidential ballot.
Asked during a White House briefing whether he had encouraged anyone in the GOP to help West get on the ballot, Trump bristled.
“No, not at all,” the president said, adding, “other than I get along with him very well. I like him. I like his wife. His wife recommended certain people, as you know, ... to get out of prison. They were in prison for a long time, a long, long time. It should have never happened and I took what she said very … Kim Kardashian ... just got a good heart, a very good heart. And i like Kanye very much.”
Kardashian, who has been an advocate for criminal justice reform, has met with Trump at the White House several times to advocate for individuals who she believes deserve to be pardoned. Trump notably followed her advice when in 2018 he granted clemency to Alice Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender. Kanye West has been a supporter of Trump, and the president and the rapper had a memorable 2018 meeting in the Oval Office.
In recent weeks, the rapper/entrepreneur announced that he no longer supports Trump and launched a presidential campaign of his own. But West’s decision to run came too late for him to qualify for the ballot in multiple states. Veteran Republican operatives, meanwhile, have helped him file paperwork in multiple states, including Arkansas and Vermont. Operatives have also worked on West’s behalf in two key swing states, Ohio and Colorado.
The links between Republican insiders and West’s incipient campaign has driven speculation that his candidacy is an effort to siphon votes away from Joe Biden. A report published by Vice on Wednesday detailed an email sent by Republican communications specialist Rachel George to another operative in Colorado soliciting a signature to help West get on the ballot there. In her email, George wrote that she was looking for people who are “in on the joke” to help.
A lawyer for West’s businesses declined to comment for this story. Michelle Tidball, a “spiritual life coach” West has tapped to be his running mate, also did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Rachel George and three other Republican operatives who have filed paperwork for West.
For his part, Trump said he is curious to see how West’s campaign pans out.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” Trump said. “We’ll see if he gets on the ballot, but I’m not involved.”
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