ALL IN THE FAMILY
Lara Trump ‘Running the Show’ at ‘Trump TV’
The quasi-propaganda videos are made in Trump Tower, overseen by the president’s daughter-in-law, and using campaign cash to pay for them.
President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law is “running the show” at his Trump TV project funded by his reelection campaign, multiple sources tell The Daily Beast.
When the Trump campaign unveiled a new Trump-friendly news product on social media last week, viewers weren’t just seeing a novel political strategy in the form of “Trump TV.” They were watching a new power center in the president’s orbit and the political apparatus pursuing his reelection.
Lara Trump, wife of Eric, is now “running the show” on the Trump campaign’s newest advertising product, as one Republican source close to the campaign told The Daily Beast, citing her past “expertise” in TV news broadcasting as a former Inside Edition producer.
Lara has played a larger role in campaign activities of late, speaking at the president’s campaign rallies and starring in the inaugural edition of the Trump-boosting “Real News,” an emerging series of digital ads designed to look like news broadcasts. The “Real” videos, which were inspired by lower-budget broadcasts from the 2016 campaign offices, are being filmed and produced out of a newly built studio in the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in New York City.
Lara isn’t just a campaign surrogate, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the campaign, she is deeply involved in the mechanics of the president’s reelection effort through her role for its top vendor, consulting firm Giles-Parscale.
The firm is doing some editing and graphics work on the “Real News” videos, according to a source with direct knowledge of that work.
Co-owned by former Trump campaign digital director Brad Parscale, Giles-Parscale was by far the largest recipient of Trump campaign money last cycle, bringing in more than $90 million in consulting fees, primarily for digital advertising and fundraising work. Last week, the firm sold off its commercial design and online services arms for an estimated $9 million, further honing its focus on political work.
Since Trump took office, Parscale has stepped back from day-to-day operations at Giles-Parscale and its Trump campaign operations, according to a source with direct knowledge of the campaign’s workings. Instead, Parscale is focusing most of his efforts on his newer consulting firm, Parscale Strategies, and its work for America First Policies, a dark-money nonprofit group that supports the Trump policy agenda.
Giles-Parscale hired Lara in late March. Since then, she has taken over its Trump campaign work, practically replacing Parscale on that front in all respects but his official campaign title.
With Lara overseeing that digital consulting work for the Trump campaign, Giles-Parscale has helped to craft the new Trump TV videos. Trump herself starred in the first such video, which was released through the campaign’s social media channels last week. The firm is also doing some editing and graphics work for the videos.
The title “Real News” is an allusion to Trump’s and his supporters’ frequent allegations that reporting unfriendly to the president and his agenda is, almost by definition, “fake news.”
The latest episode featured another pro-Trump media personality: 2016 campaign supporter Kayleigh McEnany, who officially left her job as an on-air CNN contributor last week and has now anchored the campaign’s new news-style videos.
It is not clear whether McEnany had an official title with the campaign. But on Monday, Politico reported that she will join the Republican National Committee as its national spokesperson. The Daily Beast can confirm that she had been in talks for months interviewing for a top post in the RNC communications shop.
RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens told The Daily Beast that the committee was not involved in producing the “Trump TV” videos, “but we think it’s a great idea for the campaign to be putting out videos that talk about the president’s accomplishments.”
McEnany’s “News” video also drew comparisons to a series of videos produced by the Obama White House. Dubbed “West Wing Week,” those videos were produced using government resources, in contrast to the Trump campaign’s videos.
Nevertheless, pro-Trump web videos has drawn scrutiny from Trump critics who say it resembles state-run propaganda. Though the videos are entirely produced by the campaign, not the White House, Trump is the first president to declare his re-election candidacy on the day of his inauguration, allowing him to use campaign resources to promote his agenda to a greater degree than his predecessors.
Though the videos are Trump campaign products, they do not contain “paid-for-by” disclosures required of most political advertisements. Legal experts say the campaign is likely relying on a legal loophole that exempts digital-only advertising from those disclosure rules.
The president “is now using campaign funds to create what looks like a quasi-state TV project,” according to Brendan Fischer, the director of the federal and FEC reform project at the Campaign Legal Center, an ethics watchdog group.
Though the “Trump TV” videos are broadcasted in front of a backdrop littered with the campaign’s web address, they don’t contain an official disclosure statement noting that they were paid for by the Trump campaign, Fischer noted.
“A disclaimer stating that this is paid for by the Trump campaign appears particularly important here,” Fischer said in an email, given efforts to present the videos as actual news broadcasts.
Such a disclosure “is legally required for any other ad broadcast by the Trump campaign,” he noted, but “there is some ambiguity about when a disclaimer is required for ads posted exclusively on social media, and the Trump campaign may be trying to assert a loophole.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the legal basis for its lack of such a disclosure in the videos.
However, Team Trump has no plans to slow down investment or growth of its new “Trump TV” production. In fact, it’s currently seeking additional talent. A source familiar with the development of “Real News” told The Daily Beast that Tomi Lahren, a former anchor for right-wing media network The Blaze and a current spokeswoman for pro-Trump nonprofit Great America Alliance, had been “strongly considered” for a position.
Lara Trump, McEnany, and Lahren did not respond to requests for comment on this story.