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Trump allies hope daughter Tiffany's father-in-law can help flip Arab American votes in Michigan

Trump allies hope daughter Tiffany's father-in-law can help flip Arab American votes in Michigan
Trump allies hope daughter Tiffany's father-in-law can help flip Arab American votes in Michigan

 


LANSING, Mich. (AP) One of Donald Trump's emissaries to Arab Americans is a Lebanese-born businessman who moved to Texas as a teenager, speaks Arabic, English and French and recently joined the family Trump when his son married the youngest former president. girl.

Massad Boulos faced the challenge of trying to convince a politically influential community angry at President Joe Biden that Trump is a better option. But many Arab Americans also note that Trump has positioned himself as more pro-Israel than Biden and made a series of comments and policy announcements that critics characterize as Islamophobic.

Trump has a long history of giving his family members and their loved ones key roles in his campaigns and the White House. Boulos, whose son Michael married Tiffany Trump two years ago, is the latest relative to rise into Trump's political orbit as he uses longtime connections in an effort to shore up support for candidates' campaigns Republicans presumptive for 2024.

Some Trump allies believe they can capitalize on rifts within Biden's Democratic base over his support for Israel's offensive in Gaza, where more than 37,000 people have died since Oct. 7, according to Trump officials. health of the territory led by Hamas, which gives nothing. the decomposition of civilians and combatants. Biden faced a significant protest vote in Michigan's February primary, in areas with large numbers of Arab-Americans, who make up a significant Democratic bloc.

Obviously, the number one item that is of high priority within the Arab American community is the current war in the Middle East, Boulos said in an interview. And the question is: who can bring peace and who brings war? And they know the answer to that question.

Several of the people who met with Boulos also point to Trump's statements about Arabs and Muslims. While president, Trump banned immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and questioned the loyalty of Muslim lawmakers serving in Congress. Now, as he campaigns for a second term after losing in 2020, Trump has at times criticized Biden for insufficient support for Israel and threatened to expel pro-Palestinian protesters whom he calls Hamas supporters .

I told Massad, 'It's not about you being Lebanese and me being Lebanese,' said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News in Dearborn. You can't just buy votes. You have to give something substantial to the community. And Trump hasn't done it yet.

A descendant enters American politics

Boulos, of medium height with graying black hair, square glasses and a warm, friendly smile, is often complimented for his calm and humble qualities that are not always associated with someone who oversees a conglomerate of a billion dollars.

Born in Lebanon, Boulos moved to Texas shortly before attending the University of Houston and earning a doctorate in jurisprudence. Boulos said he actively participated in Republican politics as a student.

After graduating, he eventually joined the three-generation family business and became Managing Director and CEO of the SCOA Nigeria conglomerate, specializing in the assembly and distribution of automotive vehicles and equipment.

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Boulos has political experience in his home country, having run unsuccessfully in Lebanon's parliamentary elections in 2009. He describes himself as a friend of Sleiman Frangieh, a Christian politician allied with the Shiite party and militant group Hezbollah . Frangieh is currently the Hezbollah-backed candidate for the presidential post in Lebanon.

A distant Trump supporter since his first campaign, Boulos became more directly involved after meeting Trump at a White House Christmas party in 2019. At the time, Michael Boulos was dating Tiffany Trump.

Massad Boulos has not made any recent donations, according to campaign financial records. But during a trip to Michigan this month, he attended what he described as a private fundraising event with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. ., U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., and about 50 Arab Americans.

Boulos contributed to the 2020 campaign, but his role has expanded significantly since his son married Tiffany Trump in 2022, especially as Arab Americans' discontent with Biden has presented what allies Trump sees as a bigger political opportunity.

One less vote for Biden equals one vote for Trump, said Bishara Bahbah, president of the Arab Americans for Trump group.

Boulos has a very close working relationship with the group, Bahbah said.

The group, which says it is independent of the Trump campaign, has established operations in Michigan and Arizona, states identified as priority areas by those close to Trump, Bahbah said.

A May meeting in Troy, Michigan, brought together Massad and Michael Boulos as well as Richard Grenell, who was Trump's ambassador to Germany and one of the former president's top foreign policy advisers. About 40 Arab-American activists from across the country participated.

While Arab Americans for Trump was involved in the event, Boulos said it was primarily instigated by Grenell. The rally received mixed feedback, with some attendees saying it lacked substance and did not address their concerns about Trump.

Grenell didn't say what they would do, but he kept reminding us that when Trump was president, there was no war at all and he launched the largest peace effort in the world. Middle East. But most Arabs and Muslims do not view the Abraham Accords as a peace deal, said Khaled Saffuri, an Arab-American political activist at the event.

Grenell attempted to call Trump to address attendees by phone, according to several people at the meeting. The former president did not respond.

Grenell and the Trump campaign declined to comment.

Inside Awareness

A little over a week later, Boulos returned for another round of engagements. This time, he had several meetings with nearly 50 members of the Arab American community, as well as one-on-one sessions with individuals identified as highly targeted leaders by Mike Hacham, the Arab American for Trump coordinator in Michigan.

Boulos said his efforts so far have been more of a personal effort to reconnect with his friends. He said he typically begins meetings by speaking for nearly 20 minutes, laying out the records of the Biden and Trump presidencies. He then opens the floor to possible questions.

Siblani had a nearly two-hour meeting with Boulos, who was accompanied by Bahbah, the president of Trump's Arab Americans.

According to Siblani, Boulos argued that things were better for Arab Americans under Trump and that the world had seen fewer conflicts and fewer wars during his presidency, suggesting that Trump could help resolve the Gaza conflict.

But when Siblani hit back, he said Boulos lacked facts to prove his claim that Trump is better.

Massad is unable to convince people to side with Trump because he hasn't offered anything substantial to the community except that his son is married to Trump's daughter and has access, Siblani said . That's all well and good, but what we need is policy and what Trump will do.

In interviews, Boulos said Trump respected and admired the Arab American community. He has denied there is a ban on Muslims, which many of Trump's opponents refer to as his ban on immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries. Boulos argued that this was actually extreme control by some parts of the world.

Key messages from those meetings, Boulos said, are communicated to Trump. Boulos pointed to as evidence a recent social media post by Trump that promised to bring peace to the Middle East if he were re-elected. Boulos said the timing of the post was not a coincidence but rather a response to listening to community concerns.

Trump's statement, posted on his social media platform Truth Social on June 4, did not go far enough for several community leaders who met with Boulos.

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said the campaign is grateful that President Trump's supporters are making an effort to communicate with this community.

We share the belief that the failure of Biden's Middle East policy has brought death, chaos and war to the region. This failure led tens of thousands of Democrats to vote without commitment in Michigan's presidential primaries. The Trump campaign has and will continue to communicate with these voters and remind them that President Trump's Middle East policies have brought historic levels of peace and stability to that region, Hughes said.

Just the beginning

Some in the community still believe there are other options besides Trump and Biden. Green Party candidate Jill Stein traveled to Dearborn this year to meet with leaders and recently had conversations with the city's Mayor, Abdullah Hammoud, about the possibility of him becoming her running mate.

Hammoud, 34, is not eligible for the post of vice president. The U.S. Constitution requires that the president and vice president be at least 35 years old.

Biden administration officials also traveled to Dearborn to meet with local leaders and maintained ongoing contact with them, including Siblani.

Ammar Moussa, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, criticized the outreach to Trump allies, saying in a statement that Trump was the biggest threat to the Muslim and Arab community.

He and his allies believe we have no place in this country and Trump talks openly about allowing Israel to bomb Gaza without regard, said Moussa, who is Arab-American. Trump and his campaign are racist and Islamophobic. Period. President Biden, for his part, works tirelessly for a just and lasting peace.

Until the November election, Boulos said he will continue to divide his time between running his business and meeting with the Arab-American community.

He emphasized that he was motivated solely by being a concerned citizen and a Republican. He has not considered playing a role in the Trump administration if the Republican were to win.

Honestly, I have no idea about this at the moment. I haven't thought about it at all, but I don't aspire to anything at all, he said.

___

Associated Press journalists Jill Colvin in Washington, Abby Sewell in Beirut, Lebanon, and Chinedu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

Sources

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