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In Atlanta, Brexit champion Farage dismisses Russian interference claims

A top British ally of Donald Trump dismissed the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on Monday even as the FBI’s director confirmed an investigation into possible links between the president’s campaign and Russian government.

Nigel Farage, the British populist leader, said after an appearance at the Rotary Club of Atlanta that the notion that there was any coordination between the two camps was “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Do governments watch and fiddle around in other countries’ elections?” Farage said. “Well, America’s done that over the last 60 years. But the idea that there was some collusion? That’s utter rubbish.”

FBI Director James Comey told a House Intelligence panel on Monday that the agency is investigating the “Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” a probe that is investigating whether Trump aides were in contact with Russian officials.

Farage, who led the pro-Brexit U.K. Independence Party, delivered a pro-Trump pep talk to a decidedly mixed crowd of Rotary business power brokers, drawing scattered laughter – and some praise – from the corporate chief executives and community leaders in the audience.

His message to them was pointed: “The revolution of 2016 is not over.”

“Anyone here who is a strong Democrat and really thinks the European Union is a strong project, your lives are going to get more miserable,” Farage said, adding of Trump’s critics: “They all think this is just some revolt by ill-educated, rarely washed peasants and we’ll all go back to normal. Well it won’t.”

He predicted a victory by far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in France would be a death blow for the European Union, and he said the notion of Scotland declaring independence as a result of Brexit is “nonsense.”

When asked about his future plans, he didn’t rule out a run to lead Britain if Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t move quickly enough to sever ties with the EU.

“If in two years’ time we’ve got the kind of Brexit I’ve wanted, I’m happy. I’m done,” he said, adding: “But if in two years’ time we have not got that type of Brexit, then the soft-blooded English will become so blooming angry that I’ll have no choice to go in the front lines, in the trenches.”

As for Trump, he said his sharpest critics will be surprised by a “genuinely pro-business president” who is willing to slash corporate tax rates.

“He does make little mistakes, but his instincts on the big stuff are right,” Farage said, predicting that the U.S.-U.K. ties will strengthen through the course of his presidency.

"He genuinely feels he’s made a promise to the American people,” he said. “That promise was the ticket and the policies on which he was elected. And that attitude is come hell or high water, whatever challenges come his way, he’s going to put that ticket into action.”

His remarks were met with a mix of polite applause and, at times, laughter at his barbed quips. After the event, developer Emory Morsberger delivered his assessment on Farage’s appearance.

“He’s a charming, British version of Trump.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.