On Aug. 19, 2016, Arron Banks, a wealthy British businessman, sat down at the palatial residence of the Russian ambassador to London for a lunch of wild halibut and Belevskaya pastila apple sweets accompanied by Russian white wine.
Banks had just scored a huge win. From relative obscurity, he had become the largest political donor in British history by pouring millions into Brexit, the campaign to disentangle the United Kingdom from the European Union that earned a jaw-dropping victory at the polls two months earlier.
Now he had something else that bolstered his standing as he sat down with his new Russian friend, Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko: his team’s deepening ties to Donald Trump’s insurgent presidential bid in the United States. A major Brexit supporter, Stephen K. Bannon, had just been installed as chief executive officer of Trump’s campaign. And Banks and his fellow Brexiteers had been invited to attend a fundraiser with Trump in Mississippi.
Less than a week after the meeting with the Russian envoy, Banks and firebrand Brexit politician Nigel Farage — by then a cult hero among some anti-establishment Trump supporters — were huddling privately with the Republican nominee in Jackson, Miss., where Farage wowed a foot-stomping crowd at a Trump rally. [Continue reading…]