Parler, the social network that is popular among members of the far-right, was well aware that having then-President Donald Trump as a user was going to do wonders for its popularity. And it was ready to woo him with a strategy that appealed to the president who often touted his supposed ability to close business deals. As part of talks to make Parler Trump’s primary social network, the company ended up offering the Trump Organization a 40% stake in the company, reports BuzzFeed News. As part of the deal, Trump would commit to posting everything on Parler first and waiting at least four hours before posting it on any other platform.
It’s unclear how much the former president got involved in the negotiations but the reporting by BuzzFeed makes it clear these weren’t one-off, casual conversations. Talks between the Trump Organization and Parler began last summer. It seems former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale played a key role as he had considered creating an account for the president on the site as far back as 2019. Parscale was the one who, along with campaign lawyer Alex Cannon, later met with Parler CEO John Matze and two sharholders to discuss the idea. Matze said earlier this week he was fired from the company.
As soon as it got word of the negotiations, the White House counsel’s office immediately put the brakes on the talks, warning that any deal would violate ethics rules. But the discussions restarted after Trump lost reelection. All talk apparently stopped after the Capitol riot and both Google and Apple removed Parler from their app stores. It was later taken offline when Amazon decided to stop hosting it. Parscale told BuzzFeed that Trump “was never part of the discussions” and they “were never that substantive.” Still, some experts at least say that the mere negotiations and subsequent offer would warrant an investigation. “While then-president Trump bragged that ethics rules didn’t apply to him, bribery laws do apply, and courts have held that Trump’s social media posts constituted official business while he was in office,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.
Last month, Matze said in a court filing that Trump had considered creating an account on Parler under the pseudonym “Person X.” Matze claimed Amazon Web Services knew of that possibility and stopped hosting the site as a way to deny Trump a social media platform. Amazon denied the allegation, insisting the suspension “had nothing to do with politics.”