Brad Parscale was riding Air Force One a week before the mid-term election when his boss, President Trump, had an idea of how to end a campaign season that had already been marked by fear. The president wanted an announcement depicting a migrant caravan and an immigrant who had killed officers of the order, according to a person present.
Parscale, Trump's 2020 re-election campaign manager, went to work, fine-tuning the screenplay and the video. The next day in the Oval Office, he pulled out the iPad and showed the spot to the president: a disturbing commercial with a crowd of migrants pouring into the streets and an immigrant twice expelled from Mexico who claims to have killed two California agents.
Trump loved it, according to one person at the meeting, and Parscale signed a $ 1.5 million national advertising campaign.
After the announcement was refused by CNN as "racist" and pulled by other television networks and Facebook, Parscale hunted down, tweeting, "The #FakeNewsMedia and #PaloAltoMafia are trying to control what you see and how you think".
This loyalty earned Parscale a rare place in the close circle of the president, emphasizing how former confidants like Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, have fallen.
The episode reflects the curious rise of the 42-year-old Parscale, who met Trump by selling discounted services for the website to the family business, served as a digital strategist in his 2016 campaign and is now the first engine of the combative and racial brand of political trump.
As the president intensified his attacks on immigrants – an approach likely to lead to the 2020 race – Parscale excitedly amplified them, producing incendiary advertisements and using his Twitter feed to echo the president's messages.
One week this fall, Parscale said, he spent 60 hours with the president at the rallies and on Air Force One. The two discussed political strategy and polls, linked to their shared passion for football and watched a lot of television – from Fox News to CNN to the coverage of Tiger Woods' victory in a golf tournament.
"Brad is uniquely qualified as he has full family confidence, which is something I have rarely seen in the Trump world since I was part of it," said Katie Walsh, who has worked closely with Parscale as head of the staff for the Republican National Committee and Deputy Head of the White House cabinet. "There is no day light between the president and Brad Parscale."
Parscale used his proximity to help shape the president's dark tone while campaigning for the Republicans in the fall. Among his influences: he persuaded Trump to adopt the most threatening "alien aliens" instead of "illegal immigrants", according to two electoral campaign officials.
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Parscale rejects the accusations he is playing against racial fears. He said that the announcement of migrants used "real footage of people trying to enter the United States illegally" and reflected the concerns of most Americans.
"Since President Trump took office, I have learned a lot about the problems at our borders," Parscale said, adding that he also discussed the issue with Texas officials.
Parscale is also using his influence to follow the platforms he credited to help Trump win in 2016. For months, he has publicly accused Facebook and other social media companies of trying to ban pro-Trump rumors, an accusation that companies they deny.
His alarming approach alarmed some Republicans, who fear that his message will alienate the moderate voters Trump will need in 2020, and will surprise his long-standing friends, who do not remember that he is particularly driven by politics or politics. ;ideology.
Quintin Mason, who played basketball with Parscale at Trinity University in San Antonio and remained a close friend, said he remembered that Parscale used to call himself a libertarian. Mason, who is African-American, said that when he bought a house in San Antonio in 2007, the vandals painted the "n-word" on his main door and in the garage. Parscale arrived home and painted the message.
"Brad is the opposite of what we call a racist of white supremacy," Mason said. "He was just as shocked at what happened to my house as I was."
"It's strange to see that my friend is the campaign manager for Donald Trump," said Mason, a Democrat who said he considered Trump "dangerous".
Sitting in a basement office without windows of the RNC building at Capitol Hill last month, Parscale did not apologize for rejecting the vestiges of the party that his boss flipped over.
"I'm here because I love his family and I would not have the life I have without him," Parscale said during a two-hour interview, one of the many conducted last month.
Folding his 6 "frame on an L-shaped sectional sofa in his cavernous office, even darker than normal because he does not like fluorescent light, he said:" I am loyal to them. I also believe in what he is doing for this country ".
I was in free fall & # 39;
The first memory of Trump's Parscale dates back to 1988, when he was 12 years old. His father, Dwight Parscale, who had been deputy attorney general of Kansas for civil rights and had made a congressional offer of Congress unsuccessful as a Democrat, had changed party. The family was in the slavery of President Ronald Reagan, and Parscale told his parents that he wanted to be a stockbroker or perhaps a CEO.
The young Parscale has asked for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal and still remembers to have read of a blatant New York developer named Donald Trump.
After attending college in San Antonio, Parscale worked briefly for a technology company run by his father who went bankrupt. In the wake, he divorced.
"I was in free fall," Parscale said.
In 2004, Parscale started a company specializing in the marketing of products on the Internet and in the development of websites. It had a modest success until a fortuitous meeting.
One of Parscale's clients was sitting on a plane next to a passenger who would soon enter the Trump organization. Parscale's work came up and eventually received an email from the classmate asking if he wanted to make an offer for developing a website for Trump's company.
Parscale, a regular viewer of Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice", has seized the opportunity.
"I just made a price," Parscale said, offering to do it for $ 10,000. He told Trump's son, Eric, that the money was repayable if the job was unsatisfactory. "I recognized that I was nobody in San Antonio, but working for the Triumphs would be all."
Eric Trump became the greatest supporter of Parscale. "He impressed me," Eric Trump said in an interview. "I found myself attending Brad again and again."
Over the next five years, the Trump Organization has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars of work related to websites related to Parscale.
In a short time, he said, he managed one of the largest digital advertising companies in Texas.
"I made a lot of money during the four or five years that I was doing business with them," said Parscale from the Trump family. "I was doing well, but they blew me in. He made my name and my success."
Thanks to his ties with Trump, Parscale started working for a number of Fortune 500 companies, he said, relying heavily on Facebook, learning the techniques he later used to help elect President Trump.
In February 2015, Trump asked Parscale to design a relatively simple Web page for a $ 1,500 presidential exploratory committee. When Trump launched his campaign in June 2015, he paid Parscale $ 10,000 to develop the campaign website.
Five months later, Parscale received a phone call from Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who recognized the importance of Facebook but felt that the digital campaign in Iowa's first caucus state was not going well. Kushner asked Parscale how he would handle the digital strategy.
"If you want to be the next president, you have to take advantage of Facebook," Parscale told Kushner. "Give me the power and I can help you win".
In the beginning, Parscale used Facebook to blow up Trump's videos. By increasing the role of Parscale, he said he realized that Facebook had evolved from its urban sector to have millions of older rural users – the kind of people Trump had to reach.
In the end, Parscale ran a 100-person advertising operation called Project Alamo in an office building in an industrial park in San Antonio, which had been operating in an almost secret location for months.
In October 2016, Parscale moved to Trump Tower in New York and overseen an advertising budget of nearly $ 200 million. Half was for TV commercials. The other half was for digital platforms, with most of those targeting Facebook.
Parscale was convinced he had found a tunnel for victory, targeting a large number of rural voters in a handful of swinging states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that the Clinton campaign had missed.
The campaign uploaded lists of supporters on Facebook, which matched them to existing profiles, allowing them to target ads directly to those users. The Parscale team has therefore exponentially expanded the reach of ads through a Facebook tool that identifies the "similar" audience.
Trump, however, was livid on the amount of money spent on Facebook.
In mid-October, the candidate rushed into the Parscale office on the 14th floor of the Trump Tower. For thirty minutes, Trump threw up his anger at Parscale – spitting spittle on Parscale's face at one point, according to a witness. Pointing to a nearby screen, Trump complained that Parscale was wasting millions of dollars on Facebook ads instead of TV ads, which was "how people win the election," Trump said.
Parscale said that he replied: "If you are the next president, you will win it on Facebook".
A senior Trump aide who witnessed the clash said that Parscale was about to quit. Later, Parscale traveled through Midtown Manhattan for hours.
"It was the first time he really screamed at me," said Trump's Parscale. He decided to stay after "every person in the family called me and said," Do not worry about this ".
"There's a huge trust"
After Trump's victory, the president's dependence on Parscale deepened, even if the other members of the restricted circle came and went.
Eric Trump said his father is linked to Parscale as few people outside the family. "It's very close," he said. "There's a huge trust in all of us … It's one of a very select group of people."
The new role of Parscale has been profitable. In the last two years, $ 20 million has gone from the re-election campaign of Trump, the RNC and other political committees to Parscale and many of its companies, according to requests for campaign funding. Parscale said that much of that money was for advertising expenses and purchases. He said he kept a fraction, but refused to disclose the amount.
As director of the campaign, Parscale said he agreed to work for a stoppage of at least $ 300,000 a year, along with bonuses. Unlike most strategists, he said, it will not take a percentage of media purchases, which can total millions in presidential campaigns.
Separately, Parscale also operates a company called Parscale Strategy, which said it has eight employees and plans to make $ 25 million in assets this year. Parscale has refused to release a list of its customers, citing non-disclosure agreements.
But most of his time is focused on advising the president on messaging. He urged Trump to talk about economics and immigration. He also echoed the president's frustration with the investigation of special advice on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Five months before Trump forced the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had refused to oversee the Russian probe, Parscale tweeted, "It's time to fire Sessions. Mueller's investigation ends."
Much of Parscale's campaign work has disappeared until the last two weeks, when he unveiled a $ 6 million ad campaign to raise Republican candidates in the mid-term elections. He has produced a series of announcements, including a spot aimed at suburban women who have propagandized the strong economy.
But the commercial requested by Trump – who declared "Stop the caravan, vote for the Republican" – has received the utmost attention. CNN refused to send it on air, and Fox News pulled it back.
The origin of the announcement is obscure. On October 31, during the period when Trump gave Parscale the idea for the commercial, the president tweeted a longer video with similar images and themes that falsely accused the Democrats of having left a clandestine immigrant who killed two policemen in the country. That video was not produced by the campaign, according to a person familiar with it, and there are no revelations that identify who did it.
The White House did not answer The Post's questions on the video.
Parscale declined to comment on the video Trump tweeted. The advertising spot that helped produce, that was released November 2, did not include the misleading language on the Democrats.
Yet, he has provoked fierce repercussions from critics who claimed to have played on racial fears. Parscale replied Twitter, "When will it be enough, when the caravan is 100K, 500K, 2MM?"
In an interview, Parscale defended advertising as correct and effective. "I think the announcement of the caravan has certainly helped the victories in Florida," he said, referring to the success of the GOP in the victory of the governorship and the seat in the United States Senate. (Both are so close that a recount can be held).
Some Republican strategists, however, fear that Parscale's arsonist approach may further alienate voters whom Trump might need in 2020.
"The thing is, you have a tough shakedown cruise with these new campaign managers who have never done this and make mistakes, and this is probably one of them," said Doug Gross, a long-standing Republican consultant of the country. ;Iowa.
Friends say that Parscale has not always seemed so political. He only voted twice between 2006 and 2016, and failed to vote for the general election for Trump, according to Texas voting documents. (Parscale said he believed he had voted in the general election by vote for absentee and questioned the validity of the acts).
"His voice and tone on Twitter seems to be talking like work, not reflecting on who he is as a person," said a member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be honest.
Parscale said his style change reflects his transition into roles from 2016 to today. "A digital director should not be in front of you, but a campaign manager's job is to set up a narrative," he said.
An attack on social media
One of the most dominant narratives that Parscale has pushed is that the same social media platforms that he used to help Trump are prevented against the president. He criticized Facebook for banning a number of commentators who supported Trump, including the conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones, who falsely claimed that filming of the Sandy Hook Elementary School they left 26 dead were "completely false".
In a piece of opinion for the Washington Examiner, Parscale said that Facebook and other companies were controlled by the intrinsic totalitarian drive of the left.
Parscale also complained that a change at the start of this year in the Facebook algorithms – which the company had claimed was designed to improve the posts of a user's friends – made it harder to promote Trump and tweet the hashtag #StoptheBias.
In June, Parscale brought his complaints directly to top Facebook officials, including Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy, in a private meeting at the company's office in Washington, in the presence of the president of the RNC Ronna McDaniel and majority leader House Kevin McCarthy.
"I was tough enough with them," Parscale said.
The Facebook officials did not want to comment on the meeting or their relationship with Parscale.
In a statement, the company's spokesman, Andy Stone, said: "We do not suppress the content on the basis of the political point of view or prevent people from seeing what matters to them." Twitter also said it does not prohibit users based on ideology.
Parscale said he did not worry about the impact of denigrating powerful social media companies like Facebook.
"Do we need them this time? No," said Parscale. "The information revolution that Trump needed for his roots – this has already happened".
Under his leadership, the Trump campaign committee churned out calls for fundraising with messages laden with immigration and "false news" that have already helped raise $ 100 million for the re-election of the president.
With its first war chest and a database of 20 million Trump supporters, Parscale is ready to launch a massive re-election operation that plans to raise $ 1 billion – three times that collected in 2016. Rather than leaning on Facebook to reach supporters, he plans to rely heavily on e-mails, mobile phone texts and apps.
"The whole game will be different" in 2020, said Parscale, who plans to manage the operation from an office complex in a Virginia suburb. "We're no longer a grassroots campaign, now we're sitting in the White House, we have a different mission now."
The last campaign, he said, concerns the presentation of voters with "dreams" about how a Trump presidency could be. Now, Parscale said, the mission will be to present voters with "facts" that prove that those dreams are coming true.
"The old Republican Party has disappeared," said Parscale, in his underground office in the RNC headquarters. "Now it's Trump's party."
Alice Crites and Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this relationship.