THE MAN BEHIND TRUMP 2020
How Brad Parscale shapes the U.S. president’s combative politics and the election campaign
Brad Parscale was riding WASHINGTON on Air Force One a week before the midterm elections when his boss, President Donald Trump, had an idea about how to close out a campaign season that had already been laced with fear. The president wanted an ad depicting a migrant caravan and an immigrant who had killed law enforcement officers, according to a person present.
Parscale, the manager of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, went to work, fine-tuning the script and video.
The next day in the Oval Office, he pulled out his iPad and showed the president the spot: an ominous commercial featuring crowds of migrants spilling across roads and a twice-deported immigrant from Mexico boasting about killing two California officers.
Trump loved it, according to a person at the meeting, and Parscale signed off on a $1.5 million national ad campaign.
After the ad was rejected by CNN as “racist” and pulled from other television networks and Facebook, Parscale lashed out, tweeting, “The #FakeNewsMedia and #PaloAltoMafia are trying to control what you see and how you think.”
Such loyalty has earned Parscale a rare spot in the president’s small inner circle, rising in prominence as onetime confidants such as Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen have fallen away.
The episode reflects the curious rise of the 42-year-old Parscale, who met Trump by selling discounted website services to the family business, served as digital strategist on his 2016 campaign and now is the prime mover of Trump’s combative and racially charged brand of politics.
As the president has escalated his attacks on immigrants — an approach he is likely to carry into the 2020 race — Parscale has amplified them with gusto, producing inflammatory ads and using his own Twitter feed to echo the president’s messages.
One week this fall, Parscale said, he spent 60 hours with the president at rallies and on Air Force One. The two discussed political strategy and polls, bonded over their shared passion of football and watched lots of television — from Fox News to CNN to the coverage of Tiger Woods’ victory in a golf tournament.
“Brad is uniquely qualified in that he has the full faith of the family, which is something I’ve rarely seen in Trump world since I’ve been part of it,” said Katie Walsh, who worked closely with Parscale as chief of staff for the Republican National Committee and White House deputy chief of staff. “There is no daylight between the president and Brad Parscale.”
Parscale has used his proximity to help shape the president’s dark tone as he campaigned for Republicans this fall. Among his influences: he persuaded Trump to adopt the more ominous-sounding “illegal aliens” in place of “illegal immigrants,” according to two campaign officials.
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Parscale dismisses charges that he’s playing off racial fears. He said the migrant ad used “real footage of people trying to enter the United States illegally” and reflected the concerns of most Americans.
“Since President Trump has assumed office, I have learned a great deal about the problems on our borders,” Parscale said.
Parscale is also using his influence to go after the very platforms that he credits with helping Trump win in 2016. For months, he has been publicly accusing Facebook and other social media companies of seeking to ban pro-Trump voices, a charge the firms deny.
His flame-throwing approach has alarmed some Republicans, who worry his message will alienate moderate voters Trump will need in 2020, and surprised longtime friends, who don’t remember him being particularly driven by politics or ideology.
Quintin Mason, who played basketball with Parscale at Trinity University in San Antonio and has remained a close friend, said he remembers Parscale used to describe himself as a libertarian. Mason, who is African-American, said that when he bought a house in 2007 in San Antonio, vandals painted the “N-word” on his front door and garage. Parscale came to the house and painted over the message.
“Brad is the opposite of what we define as a white supremacist racist,” Mason said. “He was just as upset about what happened to my house as I was.
“It’s kind of weird to see that my friend is campaign manager for Donald Trump,” added Mason, a Democrat, who said he views Trump as “dangerous.”
Sitting in a windowless basement office of the RNC building on Capitol Hill last month, Parscale was unapologetic in dismissing the vestiges of the party his boss turned upside down.
“I’m here because I love his family and I wouldn’t have the life I have without him,” Parscale said during a two-hour interview.
Brad Parscale, right, reelection campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks with supporters at a campaign rally, in Estero, Florida, in October.
President Donald Trump spent a lot of time with 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale aboard Air Force One during the midterm campaign. Parscale is viewed as a trusted family retainer.