During Donald Trump‘s presidency, there were numerous ethical conflicts. The former Commander In Chief peddled influence from Trump Tower, promoted products from The Oval Office, and used the Department Of Justice to settle personal grievances.
Newly uncovered documents show that Trump sought to use his office for personal gain one more time before leaving. Parler, the right-wing social network, offered then-president Trump 40% of the company to post exclusively on the platform.
The deal was never finalized, but legal experts said the discussions alone, which occurred while Trump was still in office, raise legal concerns regarding anti-bribery laws.
Founded in 2018, Parler focused on building a social network that would serve as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter by taking a more lax approach to content moderation.
It billed itself as a site that allowed “free expression.” It soon became a home for conservative and far-right personalities who had been suspended or banned from mainstream social media.
By late 2020, it had become a go-to online gathering place for hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and believers in the QAnon mass delusion, as well as prominent Republican lawmakers.
Talks between members of Trump’s campaign and Parler about Trump’s potential involvement began last summer and were revisited in November by the Trump Organization after Trump lost the 2020 election to the Democratic nominee and current president, Joe Biden.
Parler offered the Trump Organization a 40% stake in the company. It is unclear as to what extent the former president was involved with the discussions.
The never-before-reported talks between Trump’s business organization and Parler, a social media network that promises less moderation than mainstream sites and is embraced by the far-right, provide more insight into the frantic last weeks of Trump’s presidency.
Until the Electoral College Riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, after which Facebook and Twitter suspended or banned him for continuing to sow discord about the election, Trump used those internet platforms to peddle baseless conspiracy theories.
While doing so, his representatives actively negotiated to bring him to Parler, which sought to make the president a business partner who would help it compete with Twitter and Facebook by getting him to post his content on its platform first.
Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and lawyer Alex Cannon met with then-Parler CEO John Matze and shareholders Dan Bongino and Jeffrey Wernick at Trump’s Florida club Mar-a-Lago in June 2020 to discuss the idea.
Parscale had taken an early interest in Parler and reportedly considered creating an account for Trump on the site in 2019 as a safety net if he was ever banned by Twitter and Facebook. The White House counsel’s office soon put a stop to the talks, ruling that such a deal, while Trump was president, would violate ethics rules.
Donald Trump, however, never maintained a verified account on that platform and preferred to keep his daily missives to Twitter and Facebook, where his audience was much larger. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, intervened to keep him off Parler during his last days in office.