Suspicious

Albin Lohr-Jones/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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Brad Parscale is going to be interviewed tomorrow by the House Intelligence committee. He was the Trump campaign’s Digital Director. I’ve long been highly suspicious of his role in the Trump campaign.

For clarity, I do not mean that I’m suspicious of possible bad acts, though I don’t by any means rule them out. I’m skeptical that he actually played the role we’re told he played.

Before Trump ran for President, Parscale ran a web design firm in Texas. He found his way to Trump by making low bids and then delivering on design contracts for websites for various Trump Organization businesses. That led to him being hired to design Trump’s campaign website and be his web guy on the campaign. Given what we know about Trump – how people from the business were brought into the campaign and how much loyalty matters to Trump – that makes perfect sense. But modern data-mining and data driven social ad campaigns involve very different experience and technical knowledge than the design, architecting and sys-ops knowledge you use to build industry-standard websites. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone who ran a smallish company doing the former suddenly became an expert in the latter.

Now it is true that people who came up in the Bush 2004 campaign basically as webmasters evolved into and in many ways created the modern data-centric messaging craft. This is even more the case with a larger number of people who came up in the Obama 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In other words, it’s not like someone suddenly just becoming a heart surgeon by learning on the job. It’s not quite like that and in key respects those folks who ran the first few presidential campaigns of the 21st century created the science on the job. But the transformation Parscale supposedly went through just doesn’t add up to me. Possible? I guess. But it seems unlikely.

What I think – and this was really reported in real time if you go back and look – is that there was a skeletal Trump web operation. As things got more serious in the middle of 2016, they brought in a lot of data people, particularly late in the year. They also brought in Cambridge Analytica. That was critical.

Why this seems relevant to me is that if investigators are looking to talk to the people who were actually doing the key work, making the decisions about who would do it, how it would be done, etc., I’m very skeptical that that is actually Brad Parscale.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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