Politics & Government

Kansas natives, Trump campaign alumni talk up former boss

Former Trump campaign officials Brad Parscale, center, and Katrina Pierson speak during a Kansas Republican Party event on Tuesday moderated by party chairman Kelly Arnold, left.
Former Trump campaign officials Brad Parscale, center, and Katrina Pierson speak during a Kansas Republican Party event on Tuesday moderated by party chairman Kelly Arnold, left. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita native Katrina Pierson became convinced divine intervention was at play in President Donald Trump’s election as she served as his national spokeswoman.

Topeka native Brad Parscale recounted how he helped drive the campaign’s Facebook strategy to electoral success while leading its digital strategy.

The two alumni of the Trump campaign shared stories from the trail, criticized the media and described their boss in glowing terms during a Kansas Republican Party fundraiser Tuesday night in Topeka that doubled as a homecoming.

"There’s no reason either of us would be sitting here today other than having the will and the fight and the courage and the doors that God himself have obviously opened for this country," Pierson said.

Pierson first met Trump before he had decided to run. She said she urged him to run.

"I said: ‘Look, you need to run. And if you do, you will win and you will win big and I’m going to help you," Pierson said. "I guess I’m a prophet because that’s exactly what he ended up doing."

Pierson and Parscale’s appearance comes amid mounting scrutiny of the White House and campaign as investigators examine whether campaign officials colluded with Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump also has been criticized over his response to violence in Charlottesville last month.

Trump’s approval rating sits at about 38 percent, according to Gallup. About 55 percent of the country disapproves of the job he is doing.

But Trump has also cheered some supporters (and angered others) by cutting a deal with Democrats over the debt ceiling. He has announced he is ending a program shielding individuals brought to the country illegally as children from deportation – a move that has energized some conservatives.

None of that surfaced during the event, which was a panel discussion in a hotel ballroom before more than 100 attendees. The discussion stayed mostly in the past.

Parscale told the story of how he came to believe Trump would win the election as early data began coming in in the days leading up to Election Day.

"I believe truly in my heart, out of 300 whatever million Americans there are, I was the first person on this planet to know he won because I had the most raw data and everything was coming to me, just no one believed me yet," Parscale said to laughs.

"That moment didn’t last very long. But if there’s one thing it says on my gravestone: Knew Donald Trump was president first."

Parscale explained how he stressed the importance of Facebook to the campaign and how he was able to target specific ads to voters based on whether they were Democrats who could be persuaded to vote for Trump or Republicans who needed encouragement to vote.

Parscale, as the Trump campaign digital director, has drawn interest in inquiries into Russian interference before the election. He has said he has accepted a request from the House Intelligence Committee to be interviewed.

He has also said that he is "unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital and data operations" of the campaign. Neither Parscale nor Pierson spoke about investigations into the campaign or White House on Tuesday night.

The two criticized "fake news" and the news media.

"What they did to us, the media did to us, during the campaign, was wrong on so many levels," Pierson said.

The two are now part of America First Policies, which advocates for Trump’s policy agenda. Pierson said they aim to push his policies, engage the public and remind Republicans of what it means to be a Republican and urge them to stand for the party platform.

"If we can do that, then I think you’re going to see a very different America in four years," Pierson said. "It’s going to be something we’re all going to be proud of."

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman