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Scientology wastes no time making a move on the new president, but where does Trump stand?

[Then-candidate Donald Trump and Trish Duggan, during the campaign]

Back in August, we pointed out that while many people have noted similarities between Donald Trump and L. Ron Hubbard, at least in their personal styles (something we’ve acknowledged as well), we hadn’t really seen any substantial connections between the Republican candidate and the Church of Scientology itself.

But now that he’s president, we’re very curious to find out what Trump thinks about Scientology, which increasingly faces calls from the public to be investigated by federal agencies like the FBI and IRS.

We’ve heard from several conservative friends — even some with fairly impressive connections in Washington — that they feel confident Trump can be convinced to crack down on Scientology in a way his predecessors have not. And indeed, especially since the airing of A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, we’ve seen much more interest in the church’s controversies from the conservative media after Leah publicized Scientology’s use of forced abortion against Sea Org workers.

On the other hand, there’s Trish Duggan.

Our tipsters spotted her at the inaugural Friday, chatting with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, as well as with Kellyanne Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager and has been appointed presidential counselor.

Trish Duggan and her husband Bob are the wealthiest Scientologists in the world, currently worth about $2.5 billion. Each year, the Duggans are listed as Scientology’s biggest donors, and we last estimated (conservatively) that their giving just to one Scientology fundraising arm, the IAS, has reached about $70 million. They’ve given millions more to various Scientology construction projects, particularly in South Africa, where they’ve also had an odd family arrangement.

Photos of Trish Duggan at the inaugural were posted online by another wealthy Scientologist, Grant Cardone, who last year started spending a lot of time with the Duggans.

 

[Trish and Callista Gingrich, photo posted by Grant Cardone]

 

[Trish gets a word in with Newt Gingrich, who was ID’d by Cardone]

 

 
We asked former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder for his thoughts on whether Trump might be swayed one way or the other about looking into the church.

“Generally, Republicans are helpful to Scientology,” he says. “The Christian Right has a lot of influence. They may hate Scientology, but they will do a lot to protect from any erosion of First Amendment protections. They worry that if Scientology gets attacked or loses its tax-exempt status, then it will be the Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons next, and then their denominations. But I do not know how much influence they have with Trump. He seems wholly uninfluenced by anything other than money and his ego. So, perhaps they won’t have much say and the angle could be to generate revenue for the Treasury by revoking Scientology’s tax exempt status. Trump is so unpredictable…it’s impossible to tell what he might do and whether his is a good or bad administration for seeking government action against Scientology.”

As we pointed out in August, the few connections that have been drawn between Trump and Scientology have been very tenuous…

Three things are usually cited: 1) In 2006, Trump donated a paltry $1,000 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Fund, a Scientology front set up by Tom Cruise to deliver L. Ron Hubbard’s quack sauna-and-vitamins “detoxification” cure for first responders to the 9/11 attacks. 2) That Trump is friendly with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who went easy on Trump University and declined to prosecute it for fraud, while Bondi has also been friendly with Scientologists, who have hosted fundraising parties for her. And 3), that Trump’s chief fundraiser, Hollywood producer Steve Mnuchin [and now nominated to be Treasury secretary], is involved with a film funding company owned in part by James Packer, who was involved in Scientology from about 2002 to 2006.

While those ties aren’t very substantial, there are signs that Trump’s administration isn’t unwelcoming to pseudoscience.

In August, Trump met with Andrew Wakefield. Writes Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times…

Wakefield is the former British physician whose paper claiming a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism has been shown to be fraudulent, costing Wakefield his medical license in Britain. Wakefield later moved to Austin, where he still promotes anti-vaccine claims. After meeting with Trump, Wakefield told Statnews.com that he found the candidate to be “extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue…. For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this.”

Hiltzik also pointed out that earlier this month, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced that he had been invited by Trump to chair a commission “on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”

The Trump team soon denied that the invitation had been issued, but acknowledged that Trump was “exploring the possibility” of such a commission and that he had “enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and…looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of autism with many groups and individuals.” If you missed what happened there, the Trump team effectively reiterated the discredited claim of a link between autism and vaccination.

In 2015, we noted that RFK Jr.’s anti-vaccine message had led him to give an alarmist address at, of all places, a Church of Scientology.

Trump’s embrace of pseudoscience has also raised alarms from climate scientists and LGBT advocates.

But with conservative media finally getting interested in Scientology and its abuses, could Trump be swayed to back IRS or FBI action?

“I think anyone who says they know what Trump will do is blowing smoke,” Rinder tells us. “Probably the only people in the world I think might know are his kids and Jared Kushner. And I would not bet any money on even their predictions.”

Scientology isn’t taking any chances, and we’re not surprised to see Trish Duggan trying to get close.

Does that mean that Tom Cruise isn’t far behind?

 
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John Travolta’s co-star weighs in

Wow. Barry Pepper played Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, the lead role in John Travolta’s 2000 film version of L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction novel, Battlefield Earth. And now it turns out he’s a big fan of Leah Remini’s hard hitting A&E series. Does Travolta know?

 

 
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Claire Headley on the radio this evening

Speaking of conservative media showing more interest in Scientology, Claire Headley will be talking about her forced abortions in the Sea Org tonight on an Internet radio program.

You can catch her at 7 pm Eastern at the March 4 Life NY radio channel.

 
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June will be here before you know it

 

 
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.

[Thank you, Observer.]

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 23, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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