NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) apparently thought nothing of the man’s gray, Nazi-style trench coat and Hitler Youth haircut.
A smiling Rosendale posed for a photograph outside the U.S. Capitol last week alongside two well-known white supremacists: Ryan Sanchez, a former member of the violent neo-Nazi street gang Rise Above Movement who was dressed similarly to a WWII German officer, and Greyson Arnold, a pro-Nazi blogger.
“Just ran into Congressman @mattformontana , a real America First representative with backbone,” Arnold wrote in an Instagram post.
Independent journalist Vishal Singh first drew attention to the photo by posting it on his own Instagram.
“These are not mere far-right activists,” Singh wrote in the caption. “These men support active calls for genocide against LGBTQ+, Black, and Jewish people in the United States. Why are Republicans meeting with mask-off neo-Nazis?”
Rosendale’s office told HuffPost that the men had approached the congressman while he was returning to the House from a joint veterans’ affairs hearing, and that neither he nor his staff knew who they were.
“I absolutely condemn and have zero tolerance for hate groups, hate speech, and violence,” Rosendale said in an email statement. “I did not take a meeting with these individuals — I was asked for a photo while walking between hearings, accommodating as I do for all photo requests, and was not aware of the individuals’ identity or affiliation with these hate groups that stand in stark contrast to my personal beliefs.”
This isn’t the first time Rosendale, a loyal ally of former President Donald Trump who is rumored to be eyeing another run against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in 2024, has come under fire for mingling with far-right extremists.
In 2014, he spoke at a pro-gun Oath Keepers rally in Kalispell, Montana. Pictures from that event show Rosendale, then a state senator, standing at a microphone behind a large black and yellow Oath Keepers banner. The anti-government militia group has a long history of violence, including storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Several members of the group, including founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the attack.
“I have zero connection to Oath Keepers, and an event that I spoke at in 2014 was in Kalispell, and it was for the Second Amendment — to support the Second Amendment,” Rosendale told NBC Montana shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. “I don’t have any affiliation with them, I have no communication with them, but I do support the Second Amendment.”
Notably, Rosendale was among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election. He later voted against both creating a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and awarding Congressional Gold Medals to fallen Capitol Police officers, including two who died as a result of the attack.
Sanchez has ties to multiple white supremacist groups. He was a member of RAM, a group notorious for the violence its members inflicted on counter-demonstrators at the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sanchez has claimed his membership in RAM led to him getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, according to Left Coast Right Watch, an investigative news outlet.
He also was allegedly a member of Identity Evropa, a since-disbanded white supremacist group that had a large presence at the Charlottesville rally. The group practiced “entryism,” which the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights describes as the strategy of “gaining a place in more mainstream organizations by moderating one’s appearance and expressed values in order to further movement goals.”
Sanchez is a practitioner of entryism and has attempted to make inroads with the MAGA movement, speaking at election-denying “Stop the Steal” rallies in California in 2020 and later joining up with the People’s Convoy, a caravan of truckers protesting policies related to COVID.
And this past November, Sanchez was a guest on the pro-Trump One America News Network, where he spoke in defense of a white supremacist sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Arnold similarly has made inroads into conservative spaces. He had a top Oregon Republican official on his podcast and briefly worked for the Washington State GOP.
On his Instagram account, Arnold has posted pictures of himself with numerous GOP figures in recent months, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and far-right Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.
As CNN reported, Arnold has called for killing refugees and undocumented immigrants. He is also a Nazi sympathizer, once stating that Adolf Hitler was “a complicated historical figure which many people misunderstand.”
HuffPost spotted both Sanchez and Arnold on Saturday in the lobby of the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, where this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was underway.
A video posted to Twitter by photojournalist Zach Roberts shows Sanchez and Arnold both made it into CPAC, the annual gathering that attracts prominent GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates, which was rife with election deniers and anti-trans bigotry this year.
“Dressed to impress, man,” Sanchez said when Roberts asked about his outfit, including the Nazi-style overcoat.
On Saturday evening, Sanchez and Arnold attended a rally that Nick Fuentes — the viciously racist and antisemitic leader of the America First movement who had been kicked out of CPAC the day before — hosted inside a Marriott Hotel across the street from the conference center. His supporters, who call themselves “groypers,” called a HuffPost reporter a “f****t” and stopped him from covering the rally, threatening to call hotel security.
A video of Fuentes’ speech shows he expressed support for CPAC speaker Michael Knowles, who that same day had called for “transgenderism” to be “eradicated from public life entirely.”
But Fuentes said he wanted to eradicate other -isms too.
“This is the one that hates Jesus and the world. … The other thing that’s gotta go from public life at the highest levels is this Talmudic Judaism,” he said.
Fuentes was previously aligned with prominent figures within the GOP, and he hosted a conference last year where Greene was the featured speaker. Republican officials eventually denounced him, however, after he was hired by the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, to run his often antisemitic presidential campaign.
Along with appearing alongside leaders of the neo-Nazi movement last week, Rosendale received a “True Blue” award from the political arm of the right-wing Family Research Council — a prize given to members of Congress “whose voting records perfectly defended the values of faith, family, and freedom.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Family Research Council as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
In a post to Twitter, Rosendale said he was “honored” to receive the award and said he’d “always fight for Montana values in Washington.”