Lo­cal tea party star back in Trump camp

Ad­viser will be part of his 2020 drive, but first come midterms

The Dallas Morning News - - State - By TODD J. GILL­MAN Wash­ing­ton Bureau Chief tgill­man@dal­las­news.com Twit­ter: @tod­dg­ill­man

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re-elec­tion cam­paign has re­hired Ka­t­rina Pier­son, the com­bat­ive Dal­las-area tea party vet­eran who served as a pub­lic face of his 2016 White House run.

Pier­son will serve as a se­nior ad­viser as­signed to lead­ing national grass­roots out­reach, Trump cam­paign man­ager Brad Parscale an­nounced Tues­day.

That’s an im­por­tant role for 2020 and even more so for 2018, when the midterms present a more im­me­di­ate chal­lenge for Trump.

Con­trol of Congress is on the line in Novem­ber. Re­cent elec­tions in New Jersey and Vir­ginia have al­ready handed set­backs to Repub­li­cans. The GOP had been strug­gling to hold onto a U.S. House seat in west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, and Trump stumped there twice ahead of the spe­cial elec­tion Tues­day that would pro­vide an im­por­tant test of Democrats’ abil­ity to har­ness anti-trump sen­ti­ment.

A Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the House might be in­clined to pur­sue im­peach­ment. At a min­i­mum, loss of the House or Se­nate would im­peril Trump’s agenda on im­mi­gra­tion, taxes, trade and a host of other is­sues, giv­ing ur­gency to an early push by the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tion.

Pier­son will be at the cen­ter of such ef­forts.

Since Trump took of­fice she has been work­ing with Amer­ica First Poli­cies, a group formed to pro­mote Trump’s agenda. She will be based in Wash­ing­ton. Although she didn’t join the ad­min­is­tra­tion, she has been spot­ted of­ten at the White House and has re­mained a fa­vorite.

Dur­ing the 2016 cy­cle, Pier­son was a reg­u­lar de­fender of Trump on cable news shows. She emerged in 2009 as an early star in Texas tea party cir­cles.

In 2014 she chal­lenged long­time Dal­las Rep. Pete Ses­sions in the GOP pri­mary. She fell short but drew sup­port from, among oth­ers, Rafael Cruz, fa­ther of Sen. Ted Cruz, whose up­set win in 2012 Pier­son had backed.

Dubbed “Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina” by Texas Monthly for her bit­ing ap­pear­ances as a Trump cam­paign sur­ro­gate, Pier­son turned down the post of deputy White House press sec­re­tary early in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Sean Spicer, press sec­re­tary at the time, con­firmed the of­fer a year ago.

“She ac­cepted and I was ex­cited to have her on the team,” he told the Daily Beast. “She ul­ti­mately de­cided to pur­sue another role on the Trump Team.”

Pier­son said at the time that she had made a “per­sonal de­ci­sion to re­main on the out­side for now.” The post went to Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, who suc­ceeded Spicer as the top spokesper­son for the White House.

Parscale, who served as Trump’s dig­i­tal strate­gist in 2016, also an­nounced the hir­ing of John Mcen­tee, Trump’s “body man” dur­ing the cam­paign and at the White House. Mcen­tee will serve as a se­nior ad­viser at the cam­paign, as well.

Mcen­tee was abruptly forced off the White House staff on Mon­day and es­corted out, ap­par­ently af­ter los­ing his se­cu­rity clear­ance. No rea­son has been given. The overnight hir­ing by the cam­paign re­flected Trump’s will­ing­ness to keep tainted but trusted aides close.

“As we build out our op­er­a­tions for the 2018 midterm elec­tions and the 2020 re-elec­tion cam­paign, we are pleased to wel­come back two out­stand­ing mem­bers of our 2016 team,” Parscale said in a pre­pared state­ment is­sued by the cam­paign. “We need the help of proven lead­ers such as Ka­t­rina and John to pro­mote the pres­i­dent’s grow­ing port­fo­lio of achieve­ments across the coun­try.”

Michael Glass­ner, the cam­paign’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, said that “Ka­t­rina and John will play piv­otal roles on our cam­paign once again as we de­velop a win­ning strat­egy through 2020 to Keep Amer­ica Great.”

KA­T­RINA PIER­SON

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