The Trump campaign’s surrogate army descends on Iowa and faces down a protest

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Although President Trump faces no real rivals in the Iowa caucuses, his campaign brought more than 80 surrogates into the state on Monday evening, where a half-dozen leading Democratic candidates were fiercely competing for the right to face him. The show of force by the president’s team included high-ranking officials and members of the Trump family, who appeared at a press conference where a protester was evicted after shouting that Trump’s rhetoric is “killing Jews.”

Trump’s surrogate army spread out across the state as voters prepared to cast the first votes in the two parties’ presidential primaries. The group, which included the president’s two oldest sons, as well as White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, gathered at a suburban hotel for an event billed as the “Keep Iowa Great” press conference.

It was the Trump campaign’s second major event in Iowa ahead of the caucuses, following a rally in Des Moines on Jan. 31 where Trump himself spoke. It represented an unusual level of investment in a primary where the president faces no major opposition, and in a state where the president won comfortably in 2016. The Trump campaign explained its substantial presence in Iowa as an effort to flex its organizational muscle, not as a bid to compete for attention with the hotly contested Democratic primary.

Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, addressed this as he kicked off the press conference. “A lot of people ask why we’re here today,” he said. “The truth is, this is our first test of a grassroots army we’ve built. This is going to be the largest grassroots army the Republican Party’s ever seen — or hopefully, … this country’s ever seen.”

Parscale then introduced the other press conference speakers; the president’s oldest sons, Don Jr. (accompanied by his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle) and Eric, as well as Eric’s wife, Lara Trump. Trump’s family mocked the president’s rivals and promised that he would bring in an epic victory. 

Lara Trump, a senior adviser on her father-in-law’s campaign, boasted of the reelection effort’s “growing” groups around specific “coalitions,” including veterans, women and African-Americans. 

“It is our job at the campaign to get these coalitions to go out there in their own communities, to teach them about how to talk to your friends and neighbors about Donald Trump,” she said. “Remind your friends and neighbors, if things are working for them right now, it’s thanks to Donald Trump, very simply.”

Donald Trump Jr., at the podium, with his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle (right), appears with his brother Eric (second left) and Eric's wife, Lara, at a "Keep Iowa Great" press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 3. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Eric Trump, an executive at his father’s real estate company, offered a bold prediction for the president’s chances in the general election.

“Guys, we are going to beat them again,” he said of the Democrats. “We are going to beat them so much bigger this time.” 

He went on to dismiss criticism of his father and to praise the president’s record. 

“The American people look through what’s happening. They see it as the nonsense that it is,” Eric said, adding, “They see the results. They see the economy. They see the unemployment. They see the rebuilding of our military. They see a guy who’s actually willing to stick up for this country again. They see the protection of civil liberties and religious freedom. …. We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. We weren’t saying that.”

His brother, also a Trump Organization executive, joked about remarks his father made in a Fox News interview on Feb. 3 about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democratic presidential candidate. 

Trump had tweeted that Bloomberg, who is 5-foot-8, had requested a box to stand on behind the lectern at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.

“Whoa! On this stage, I feel like Mini Mike,” Don said, standing alongside his brother and Parscale, who are both well over 6 feet tall.

“We’re from New York,” the president’s oldest son continued. “This was no secret. This is something [Bloomberg] is seriously  insecure about, and he’s spent years combatting.”

As Trump mocked Bloomberg, a man named Elon Glickman walked up to the stage and began to shout at him. 

“Donald Trump Jr.! I’m an American Jew, and ever since your father was elected president, more and more Jews are being gunned down every year,” Glickman said. 

Elon Glickman is dragged from a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, as Donald Trump Jr. speaks with his brother Eric at a "Keep Iowa Great" on Feb. 3. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

In the last two years, there have been deadly shootings at two American synagogues by suspected white supremacists. Many progressives believe that Trump has not done enough to condemn white supremacy and neo-Confederate movements. As Glickman was hauled away by security, Don Trump Jr. countered by alluding to his father’s support for the Israeli government.

“Well, I don’t think anyone’s done more for Israel and for American Jews than Donald Trump, so you can keep going,” he said. 

“You are killing Jews! All of you! All of you in here are killing Jews!” Glickman shouted, as he was escorted out of the door.

Before the incident, Glickman said he was at the press conference representing the Jewish newspaper the Forward. Although he wrote one article for the paper in 2018, the newspaper’s editor in chief, Jodi Rudoren, said that he was not in fact covering the press conference for the publication. In a message to Yahoo News  after the event, Glickman said he was affiliated with a group called “Jews against white nationalists.” According to his Twitter page, Glickman belongs to the organization IfNotNow, which opposes the right-wing government in power in Israel.

Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last week, where he unveiled an outline for a Middle East peace treaty, which the Palestinian Authority rejected as unacceptably tilted toward Israel. 

After Glickman was removed from the room, Don Jr. gave a plug for the book that he released last year, which mounts a critique of liberal activists. 

“This is why I wrote the book ‘Triggered,’ folks. … Donald Trump, who’s done more for the state of Israel, who’s defended Jews … there are Democrats in Congress saying anti-Semitic things,” he said. 

After addressing the interruption, Don Jr. continued his jabs against Democrats. He framed them as “lunatics on the left who’ve been taken over by the commie division of the party” and denounced climate action as wasting trillions to “prevent farting cows and air travel.” 

Don Jr. concluded with a vow — the Trump roadshow will roll on throughout the election. 

“I promise you one thing,” he said. “Over the next 10 months, Donald Trump will make this very, very entertaining for you all.”  

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