Two speakers invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference this week are raising eyebrows. Both are known for the their far-right views and questionable connections.
Former rising star of France's Front National party Marion Marechal-Le Pen and Brexit leader Nigel Farage will take the stage alongside Republicans just outside Washington, D.C.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who is renowned for her hardline anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, was invited to speak at the event Thursday an hour after Vice President Mike Pence and the day before President Donald Trump is set to address attendees.
Le Pen, 27, is the niece of Front National leader Marine Le Pen, and the granddaughter of party co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. She was elected to France’s parliament at just 22 years old, becoming France's youngest-ever MP.
Le Pen has been known in American Republican circles for some time. She caught the eye of President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who deemed the Le Pen a "rising star" of the far-right movement.
In the wake of Trump's November 2016 election, Marine Le Pen was photographed in the lobby of Trump Tower with key advisers, sparking rumors of a burgeoning alliance between European far-right parties and pro-Trump populists in the U.S.
On Friday, U.K. Independence Party's Nigel Farage will take part in the event, scheduled to speak on the same day as Trump.
Apart from his far-right views, Farage was also a person of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
The Guardian reported last year that Farage's links to Trump and Julian Assange piqued the investigator's interest.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.
Trump's friendship with Farage has been rather public, and the British MEP's connection to Bannon is also well known.
“One of the things the intelligence investigators have been looking at is points of contact and persons involved,” one source said. “If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage.
“He’s right in the middle of these relationships. He turns up over and over again. There’s a lot of attention being paid to him.”
And there is a lot of attention being paid to this year's lineup at CPAC. Some Republicans are choosing to steer clear, displeased with the direction the Republican Party appears to be heading:
“Reason #1245 why I won’t be attending CPAC anytime soon anymore. It used to be a must attend yearly event for decades for conservatives. Since Trump & Matt Schlapp took over, it’s given cover to alt-right ilk. Milo was invited last year! Now Le Pen??” tweeted former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer.