- Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told campaign staff and friends that he was under federal investigation, just days before police detained him, Trump advisers tell Insider.
- Parscale did not specify which agency is investigating him or what for, according to Republicans familiar with his comments
- Trump campaign staff said Parscale seemed fine in regular campaign Zoom meetings in the weeks before his meltdown.
- Parscale declined to comment for the record.
- Insider reported in July Parscale’s spending while leading the Trump campaign was the subject of an internal audit. A Trump campaign spokesman denied any such investigation is taking place.
- Trump advisers say the president has resumed complaining about Parscale recently, telling aides last Friday repeatedly that, “He ripped me off!”
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President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale appeared despondent last Friday, telling his fellow 2020 staffers and friends that he was under federal investigation, according to four Trump advisers and Republicans close to the president’s campaign.
Parscale didn’t explain which agency was investigating him, or why, but campaign staff noted the shocking turn from a colleague who had been central to Trump’s political rise in 2016. They said Parscale appeared to be fine on campaign Zoom meetings in the weeks before his recent meltdown that has landed him in a South Florida hospital under protective custody.
On Sunday, Parscale was detained at his Florida home after his wife called police saying he was a threat to himself. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department detained but did not arrest Parscale. On Thursday, the local police department filed a motion in court to remove 11 guns from Parscale’s home, citing him as a potential danger to himself and others.
Parscale declined comment on the record.
“There are no audits or investigations, and never have been, at the campaign or the RNC,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Insider in a statement. He did not respond to questions about Parscale’s comments to campaign staff and friends that he is a target of a federal probe.
But Insider broke the news in July that the Trump campaign had launched an internal audit of campaign spending by Parscale. Since then, Trump advisers have said the internal campaign investigation is ongoing and they don’t expect any findings to be revealed either publicly or privately until after the November election.
Trump is widely viewed to be losing his bid for a second term following months of mistakes, including his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic that has left him consistently trailing in the polls to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
In addition to Trump’s own self-inflicted problems, Republicans say that Trump’s campaign has struggled to deal with millions of dollars in wasted spending while the reelection effort was under Parscale’s command. Bill Stepien, who replaced Parscale earlier this summer as Trump’s campaign manager, has cut back on the money flowing from the president’s 2020 coffers, including ending plans to buy a campaign ad on a NASCAR car, a campaign blimp and curbing expensive campaign staff travel on Air Force One.
“He ripped me off!”
Trump has remained livid at Parscale over the last two months even after demoting him, according to a Trump adviser who recently spoke with the president.
In private, Trump has been complaining that Parscale stole his money — an unproven allegation. “He ripped me off!” Trump said recently in a fit of rage, according to the same adviser who was familiar with the exchange.
Trump has long vented his frustrations with Parscale, screaming at him in White House meetings and dubbing him the “$10 million man” for the amount he thinks Parscale earned off him.
Those complaints cooled off after Parscale lost the campaign manager job. But Trump’s anger at Parscale kicked off anew about two weeks ago following an expose on wasted campaign spending in the New York Times.
A second Trump adviser suggested Parscale may be nervous about the president trying to seek retribution for money he thinks was stolen. “He’s talked about getting his money back,” the adviser said of Trump.
Still, Parscale until this week remained a part of the Trump campaign because of his knowledge of its digital operations and advertising targeting on platforms like Facebook, the president’s advisers said.
Probes are a regular occurrence in Trumpworld
It’s still unclear what — if any — federal investigation exists with respect to Parscale. As is customary, officials at several law enforcement agencies declined comment when asked about possible probes into the former senior Trump campaign staffer.
As one of the president’s longtime and closest advisers, he has been in some touchy legal situations before, though nothing near what ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime adviser Roger Stone faced when special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators brought federal criminal charges during their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Parscale’s oversight of the Trump 2016 digital operation attracted the attention of the House Intelligence Committee during its own Russia probe, and the panel’s GOP and Democratic members questioned him under oath for more than three hours in October 2017.
Parscale only garnered a single substantive mention in the final redacted version of Mueller’s report. There, he’s listed alongside the president’s adult sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, former White House aide Kellyanne Conway and former national security adviser Michael Flynn for citing or retweeting Twitter messages written by a Russian-controlled account alleging voter fraud during the 2016 campaign, and also spreading allegations Democratic rival Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information while serving as secretary of State.
In his personal business life, Parscale’s 2018 sale of two of his consulting firms to the company CloudCommerce has drawn media attention. Parscale made $10 million from the transaction and obtained a 35-percent stake in the company, which according to an Associated Press investigation has a history as a penny-stock operation run by one executive who was caught in a 2006 FBI bribery sting and later pleaded guilty to securities fraud.
In 2020, Parscale’s oversight of a labyrinthine consulting operation that funneled money from the Trump campaign to pay for outside consultants also drew a formal complaint in July to the Federal Election Commission from the Campaign Legal Center. The government watchdog group accused the Trump campaign of effectively laundering $170 million in campaign money by moving it through an outside firm, American Made Media Consultants.
American Made Media Consultants “does not earn any commissions or fees. It builds efficiencies and saves the campaign money by providing these in-house services that otherwise would be done by outside vendors,” Murtaugh told ABC News in July. He said the company buys advertising for the campaign and that the “campaign complies with all campaign finance laws and FEC regulations.”
The extent of Parscale’s campaign spending and how he moved money is still unknown among Trump’s advisers and campaign staff despite its ongoing internal investigation. GOP advisers to Trump have routinely complained that the only people who knew about the 2020 campaign’s funding were Parscale and two top allies , Katie Walsh and Mike Shields.
Parscale’s Sunday meltdown
Republicans and Trump advisers told Insider they were surprised to see the media reports late Sunday that police were called to Parscale’s South Florida home. He had been regularly showing up to campaign meetings online and seemed to be doing fine before the weekend incident, they said.
Parscale’s wife, Candice, said she fled their house after Parscale had been drinking heavily and appeared distraught. As she was sitting in a neighbor’s car, Candice Parscale told police she heard a gun shot in the house and worried that her husband may have killed himself .
When police arrived at the $2.4 million home, they coaxed him outside then forced him to the ground. They detained him under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to hold someone without arrest if they think the person may try to kill themself or others.
Lawyers who have represented Parscale in the House’s Russia investigation and a separate incident involving a real estate fight in Florida did not return inquiries from Insider. And a Fort Lauderdale police report indicated that it was “unknown” if Parscale is currently being represented by a lawyer .
On Wednesday, Parscale decided to step away from the campaign and his business. His wife, Candice, also issued a statement to Politico refuting what she told police that Parscale had harmed her.