The Trump campaign is fending off questions about recent actions and comments from campaign manager Brad Parscale amid a torrent of criticism over the last few weeks from advisers inside the President’s expansive cutthroat network of confidants and aides.
Parscale’s remarks about the Trump family, comparing the powerful real estate clan to a “dynasty,” revealed over the weekend, forced the President’s reelection aides to jump to the campaign manager’s defense once again.
“The Trumps will be a dynasty that lasts for decades,” Parscale said during a retreat for California Republicans, Politico first reported on Saturday. Asked if he thought the Trump children would eventually be on the ballot themselves, he said: “I just think they’re a dynasty. I think they’re all amazing people … with amazing capabilities. I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared. You see it from all.”
One Trump adviser, however, reacted with astonishment to the campaign manager’s comments, arguing Parscale had committed a serious unforced error.
“It’s was an incredibly stupid statement,” the adviser said, remarking that Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was partly a defeat of the notion of American political dynasties.
A Trump campaign spokesman explained Parscale only meant to compliment the first family in his comments.
“Brad meant what he said, which was praise for the Trump family’s intelligence and talents, which will have positive impacts on the party for decades to come,” campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.
But one of the President’s most vocal supporters in conservative media lambasted Parscale for the remark.
“This may be one of the dumbest things a campaign manager for a populist candidate ever said: Trump family building ‘dynasty’ for decades to come #MAGA #AmericaFirst #Dobbs,” tweeted Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business host and friend of Trump’s.
The controversy over Parscale’s tone-deaf comments comes as some Trump advisers have raised concerns about the campaign manager’s business activities and the perception Parscale has been profiting from his close ties to Trump.
“The President said he was going to drain the swamp. But, turns out, Parscale IS the swamp,” a long-time Trump adviser said.
Three sources inside and outside the campaign, including longtime Trump advisers, said there is growing concern about Parscale’s business activities, particularly news reports suggesting the campaign manager is profiting from his 2020 work.
Amid scrutiny of his business ties, Parscale has decided to disentangle his business interests from his work for the campaign, ending an ad-buying relationship with the Republican National Committee last month, according to a source close to the company.
There is nothing to indicate Parscale’s job might be in jeopardy, particularly because he still enjoys the confidence of Trump and his children. And like most places in Trump’s orbit, the campaign and his outside advisers are rife with factions, including those opposed to Parscale.
But advisers said his standing could be damaged if stories about his wealth and business ties continue. In the past, Trump has resented people who have brazenly tried to profit off their relationship with him. He personally ordered his campaign to put out a statement rebuking one of his earliest advisers, David Bossie, after he was accused of soliciting funds from Trump supporters and only spending a fraction on direct political activities. Trump has since softened his stance on Bossie.
Parscale’s longevity at the helm of Trump’s campaign is a subject of intense scrutiny in Trumpworld, after the 2016 campaign saw three iterations of leadership and amidst continued high turnover at the White House.
Murtaugh dismissed any concerns as “tired attacks”
“These are the same tired attacks against Brad Parscale from anonymous sources who have a personal stake in smearing him. Brad announced long ago that he was not placing ad buys for the Trump campaign, and in addition, his companies have transitioned out of all political ad-buying of any kind during this cycle to remove even the appearance of self-dealing,” he said.
“(Parscale) took the job of campaign manager because of his love for this country, President Trump, and the entire Trump family. Brad has been transparent with the President and the Trump family from the beginning. These anonymous sources are creating a distraction, which does nothing to further the reelection of the President they claim to support,” Murtaugh added.
But some Trump campaign donors to the America First PAC have expressed concern to various advisers about the amount of money Parscale appears to be making off of his campaign role and his close ties to Trump.
“Of course they are,” one campaign official said about the donors’ concerns.
“He’s doing the work for everybody, man,” one major campaign donor to Trump’s 2016 effort said. “It’s just ridiculous, it’s outrageous.”
Parscale ingratiated himself with the Trump family as he played a critical role behind the scenes during the last campaign, when he served as the digital director and was in charge of online spending and voter targeting with the use of a highly sophisticated data bank built by the Republican National Committee. Republicans often give him credit for playing a part in the President’s success through his Facebook operation.
After the election, he co-founded America First Policies, the sister nonprofit closely related to the America First Action super PAC. He also helped raise millions of dollars in support of Trump’s reelection bid.
He’s also founded various companies that have received large sums of money from Trump-associated groups.
In 2017, he founded Parscale Strategy LLC, a marketing company that did work for America First Action, as well as others including the Republican National Committee. The America First Action super PAC made its last payment to Parscale Strategy on March 13, 2018, and its first payment to Red State Data and Digital – which Parscale also owns – eight days later, on March 21.
Federal Election Commission records show that Red State Data and Digital has received $910,000 from America First Action, a large sum for a small company with one client.
The scrutiny over the amount of money he’s made off his political companies has bothered Parscale, particularly criticism among his Republican peers over a $13,500 fee he was paid for a speech to the Republican Party of Seminole County, Florida.
Parscale has returned the money to the campaign, according to a source close to the company. In the wake of the criticism, he has begun downsizing, according to the source, who said he had let three employees go from Parscale Strategy last month. A Trump campaign spokesman declined to comment about whether Parscale had returned the money to the campaign.
And as of August, Parscale Strategy is no longer making digital ad buys for the RNC, according to two sources. Parscale made the decision amid scrutiny of his finances by the Daily Mail.
“It’s not fair to him for him to take the heat on this and he made the decision to let us pay the ads ourselves and not through his firm,” an RNC official, speaking on background in order to speak freely, said.
The decision to cut ties had been discussed prior to the media scrutiny but the final decision came soon after the Daily Mail published, the RNC official said.
But the RNC official rebuked the Daily Mail reporting suggesting that Parscale was taking a percentage of online donations, calling it “insanity.”
Murtaugh refuted the allegations reported by the Daily Mail, telling them: “The suggestion that he is siphoning off a percentage of donations is a lie. Brad receives a monthly salary, and amounts paid to other entities are for staff salaries and services provided. There are no percentages involved anywhere.”
The official said the RNC used Parscale’s firm for ad-buying because he would get “a great rate” from Facebook, Google and other companies because of his track record with those companies.
The speculation over Parscale’s finances has not stalled the campaign’s pace, which includes a Monday fundraiser in North Carolina and at multiple fundraisers in California and New York.
And despite the questions about his financial ties, Parscale still finds himself in good standing with the President’s family and those close to him said questions about his money amount to sour grapes. Because the campaign was filled with fractious relationships the last time around, Parscale has made an effort to fill the operation with his own people to minimize the infighting, according to sources familiar with the situation.
This has irked people who consider themselves the President’s earliest advisers but now find themselves on the outside, despite a desire from several of the President’s family members to streamline and professionalize the operation now that Trump is running as an incumbent, not an underdog.
Parscale has also made one strategic move that could help him stay in the job longer than most – deeply embedding himself in the President’s family. Parscale Strategy employs both Lara Trump, the President’s daughter-in-law, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News personality who is dating Donald Trump Jr.
Parscale also has a close relationship with Jared Kushner, and has empowered him to make decisions about the campaign more than most campaign managers would.
Kushner has not raised concerns about Parscale’s business ventures but has asked the campaign manager about the reporting, according to one person familiar with the conversation.
“I think that Brad’s fate probably lies with the donor reaction and then how the media covers it,” one Trump adviser said. “If the donors say we’re not giving any more, we’re not doing any more fundraising … until you do something about Brad or get rid of Brad, if that’s the message from multiple donors, then that’s going to be really problematic for Brad.”
Right now, Parscale still wields power in the Republican Party, too.
He has built strong ties with the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel. Parscale and McDaniel often phone the President together to discuss fundraising, polling and what’s next for their reelection effort, according to a source familiar with the practice. The campaign and RNC raised a combined $105 million during the second quarter of the year.