Roger Stone, a confidant of US President Donald Trump and a longtime Republican operative, posted an image that depicted himself and other Trump allies wearing space suits with swastika patches on Monday, before deleting the picture after outcry on social media.
The image appears to have been originally deployed as an anti-Trump meme on social media sites and websites such as 4chan and Reddit that surfaced after US Vice President Mike Pence touted the proposal for a sixth branch of the military at a news conference last week.
It shows Stone, Republican Devin Nunes, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Pence, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News host Sean Hannity and President Trump in space suits with the Nazi symbol appropriated into an insignia for the space force on the front of their outfits. A magnified image of the swastika patch also appears in the photo's upper right hand corner.
"In space no one can hear you lie," the caption says.
Stone posted the picture on Monday.
"I love this," he wrote. "Proud to be in this crew - but the only lies being told are by liberal scumbags."
He later deleted the image.
In an email response to questions from The Washington Post, Stone said that he didn't notice that the logo was a swastika when he posted the meme.
"I love that I was be[ing] mocked by the left - it's a badge of honor," he said. "The image was sent to me by a hater."
He also posted a image with the word "Sorry" on Instagram.
At least half a dozen of Stone's associates have been called to testify in front of a grand jury hearing evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.