Speed Reads

Trump White House

The Trump White House counsel's office employs an opposition researcher who used to work for the Kochs. No one's sure why.

"Few people in or close to the White House have any idea what Michael Roman does all day," says Nancy Cook at Politico. Roman's title, a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research, earns him a $115,000 White House salary but doesn't offer many clues about his responsibilities. His background is opposition research for Republican candidates and the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners group, and that is an odd fit for the White House counsel's office, where Roman works, reporting to White House Counsel Don McGahn, Politico says.

McGahn represented the conservative Koch network when Roman was head of research at Freedom Partners; there, Roman and his 25-person operation tracked the activities of Democratic political organizers and donors, among other things, Politico reports. Roman's unit was disbanded in 2016, and the Trump campaign hired him to oversee poll-watching and voter "integrity" efforts.

During a stint as a Breitbart News blogger from 2009 to 2011, Roman frequently wrote about alleged voter fraud in Pennsylvania and New York, as well as the Justice Department's actions regarding the Black Panther Party. He is perhaps most famous for circulating a video of two New Black Panthers outside a North Philadelphia voter station in 2008; the clip was broadcast repeatedly on Fox News.

Some people familiar with President Trump's White House told Politico that Roman is researching the social media accounts and financial backgrounds of special appointees, while others described him more generally as McGahn's researcher or "loyal soldier." Typically, if a White House hires an opposition researcher or investigator, it's for the advance or scheduling offices, to make sure the president and first lady don't appear alongside sketchy people. Roman, McGahn, and the White House declined to comment to Politico, where you can read the entire report.