A pair of familiar faces from the 2016 campaign trail randomly popped up on the US Commerce Department’s Twitter account Monday afternoon. But by Tuesday morning they were gone.
YouTube stars Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson—better known as “Diamond” and “Silk,” respectively—were invited to the Commerce Department’s headquarters this week, apparently to discuss ways in which they could expand their business. The pair runs a political blog aimed at promoting President Trump and denigrating his critics.
The Commerce Department revealed Diamond and Silk’s visit in a photo posted on the department’s official Twitter account, which said the duo had met with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to “discuss how to grow their business and build their brand.”
The tweet was deleted hours later.
A Commerce spokesperson told Gizmodo the tweet was deleted “out of an abundance of caution” as the department was not clear it had received permission to post the photo. “Diamond and Silk were here to talk about minority business development,” the spokesperson said. “They reached out to the Acting National Director of MBDA, [whom] they had met previously, to discuss how best to help the minority business community.”
The spokesperson declined to elaborate on how the Commerce Department was helping Diamond and Silk “build their brand.” At present, they offer only two products in their online store, both Trump-branded pins.
Monday’s meeting was arranged by Chris Garcia, a former Trump campaign advisor whom the president appointed acting head of the MBDA this year. The meeting would seem perfectly innocent, were it not for the fact that Diamond and Silk were paid Trump campaign consultants.
The Trump campaign denied paying Diamond and Silk for their regular on-stage appearances at political rallies. But an amendment to the campaign’s 2016 FEC report, released in May 2017, reveals the YouTube stars were in fact cut a check shortly after the election: a meager $1,274.94 for their “field consulting” work.
Questions had been raised by reporters last summer over what Trump aides brushed off as coincidence: Ace Specialties, a company the Trump campaign reportedly paid more than $2 million for campaign swag, also supplied the pro-Trump merchandise sold on Diamond and Silk’s website.
A campaign spokesperson told ABC News in April 2016 that Diamond and Silk “have never been paid by the campaign, which you can verify in our FEC reports. There is no connection with Ace. We very much appreciate the unwavering support and enthusiasm, from Diamond and Silk.”
Daniel Scavino, a Trump campaign advisor who now serves as the director of White House social media and assistant to the president, first invited the bloggers to attend a Republican debate in November 2015, Politico reports. Two months later, Trump introduced Diamond and Silk at an event in Iowa by noting, “They’ve become very famous and very rich.” Later asked by a Politico reporter what Trump meant when he said they’d grown “very rich,” Diamond replied: “Ask Donald.”
The pair went on to “stump for Trump” in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Iowa, drawing energetic responses from crowds of 10,000 supporters or more. Days before the Nov. 8 election, they appeared on stage alongside Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, at a North Carolina event, where they accused then-candidate Hillary Clinton of considering herself a “slave master.”
While their ties to Trump are often portrayed as a mere chance encounter, the pair now frequently rub elbows with the conservative elite. They’ve landed repeat appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program as well as his radio show. In April, they attended the wedding of White House political aide Omarosa Manigault, a quiet affair at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Now after having been declared paid Trump campaign consultants, a former Trump campaign staffer is ushering the YouTube celebrities into a federal office building, allegedly to help expand their Trump-themed business—the very existence of which remains curious, given Trump’s propensity for suing people who try to profit off his name, even when their name also happens to be Trump.