Meet Donald Trump’s Controversial Flack

Katrina Pierson had her critics in the political world long before she went to work for the GOP presidential frontrunner.

Dec. 28,2015: Donald Trump presidential campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson discusses Hillary Clinton on Fox New's The O'Reilly Factor 
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Dec. 29, 2015, 8 p.m.

While it may seem dif­fi­cult to top Don­ald Trump’s re­marks in their con­stant po­ten­tial for con­tro­versy, it turns out the can­did­ate may be ex­ceeded on that front by a mem­ber of his own pres­id­en­tial cam­paign staff.

When Trump called for a ban on Muslims en­ter­ing the coun­try, say­ing “we have no choice” giv­en the threat of ter­ror­ism, newly hired “na­tion­al-cam­paign spokes­wo­man” Kat­rina Pier­son on CNN re­futed the ar­gu­ment that it was dis­crim­in­at­ory this way: “So what? They’re Muslim.”

After Trump dur­ing the last GOP de­bate seemed not to un­der­stand the nuc­le­ar “tri­ad” concept, Pier­son told a Fox News audi­ence: “What good does it do to have a good nuc­le­ar tri­ad if you’re afraid to use it?”

Sally Brad­shaw, a top aide to former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush, re­spon­ded on Twit­ter to the nuc­le­ar tri­ad re­mark this way: “No words.”

Pier­son did not re­spond to Na­tion­al Journ­al’s re­quests for an in­ter­view. Cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wan­dowski answered a Na­tion­al Journ­al query about the nuc­le­ar weapons re­mark with “Nev­er saw it,” and about the Muslim com­ment by sug­gest­ing cov­er­age of a new Iowa poll show­ing Trump in the lead. On Monday, Le­wan­dowski said of Pier­son: “Kat­rina Pier­son has our full con­fid­ence.”

Pier­son is cer­tainly not new to con­tro­versy. Born to an un­mar­ried teen and grow­ing up poor in Texas, Pier­son be­came a teen­age moth­er her­self. She cred­its a shoplift­ing ar­rest at age 20 (she says she was talked in­to it by a friend to steal clothes nice enough to wear to a job in­ter­view) for turn­ing around her life. Pier­son, now 38, went on to earn an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree at a com­munity col­lege and then a bach­el­or’s in bio­logy at the Uni­versity of Texas at Dal­las.

Not long after Pres­id­ent Obama took of­fice, she be­came act­ive in tea-party polit­ics, where she dis­owned her “re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth” up­bring­ing and bought in­to the move­ment’s val­ues, she told a Re­pub­lic­an web­site in 2011. “When I found the tea party here in Dal­las, I went to one meet­ing, and I just knew that these were my people,” she told Texas­gop­vote.com. “These were the people who thought the way that I did, that felt the way that I felt, and even though I had not been polit­ic­ally in­volved but for two months, I could tell that that’s where I be­longed.”

That polit­ic­al con­ver­sion, though, did not stop her from pro­ceed­ing with two un-tea-party moves in her per­son­al life. In 2010, she un­suc­cess­fully sued the per­son­nel com­pany in­Vent­ive for lay­ing her off from her job mar­ket­ing the drug Am­bi­en to doc­tors in the Dal­las area be­cause she was Afric­an-Amer­ic­an. (The com­pany re­spon­ded in its U.S. Dis­trict Court fil­ing that the 2008 re­ces­sion forced it to elim­in­ate half its sales force, and that Pier­son had re­ceived a poor per­form­ance re­view in the months lead­ing up to the lay­offs.)

And in 2012-13, Pier­son re­ceived $11,440 in un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, even though that was the time she was vo­lun­teer­ing for Ted Cruz’s long-shot U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign and lay­ing the ground­work for her own con­gres­sion­al run against in­cum­bent Rep. Pete Ses­sions. (Ses­sions won the 2014 primary hand­ily, des­pite Pier­son’s en­dorse­ment from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Pal­in and Cruz’s fath­er, Ra­fael. Ted Cruz him­self called Pier­son “a prin­cipled con­ser­vat­ive fight­er who is ut­terly fear­less,” at a 2014 rally, but did not form­ally en­dorse her against Ses­sions.) Un­der Texas Work­force Com­mis­sion rules, re­cip­i­ents are sup­posed to be seek­ing paid em­ploy­ment dur­ing the time they are col­lect­ing be­ne­fits.

“She has a lot of bag­gage,” said Jonath­an Neer­man, former chair of the Dal­las County Re­pub­lic­an Party. “How has she man­aged to bull­shit an en­tire seg­ment of the Re­pub­lic­an Party for five years? That’s a great ques­tion.”

One GOP con­sult­ant who has on oc­ca­sion sparred with Pier­son on cable TV shows says the un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits and the dis­crim­in­a­tion law­suit don’t both­er him nearly as much as her work with the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund—one of the sev­er­al dozen polit­ic­al groups that sprang up after Obama’s elec­tion that raise many mil­lions in small dona­tions but then spend the ma­jor­ity of it on polit­ic­al con­sult­ants.

“She’s part of one of these scam PACs,” said Rick Wilson, who lives in Tal­l­a­hassee.

On Oct. 26, for ex­ample, just 14 days be­fore join­ing the Trump cam­paign, a so­li­cit­a­tion email from the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund to “draft” South Car­o­lina con­gress­man Trey Gowdy for House speak­er went out un­der Pier­son’s name—even though Gowdy had a month earli­er had stated defin­it­ively that he wasn’t even in­ter­ested in run­ning for House ma­jor­ity lead­er.

Monday morn­ing, Pier­son, now work­ing for Trump, sent out a Tweet dis­par­aging Gowdy fol­low­ing his week­end en­dorse­ment of Flor­ida Sen. Marco Ru­bio: “FTR, Trey Gowdy lost all cred­ib­il­ity when he nom­in­ated John Boehner for Speak­er so he’s per­fect for Marco Ru­bio. #Am­nesty & #Sham­nesty”

(Former speak­er Boehner last stood for that po­s­i­tion in Janu­ary—nearly 10 months be­fore Pier­son’s fun­drais­ing email.)

In the 2014 elec­tion cycle, the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund raised and spent $6 mil­lion, but only $575,000—less than 10 per­cent—went to can­did­ates or for elec­tion ads, ac­cord­ing to Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. The rest went to con­sult­ants, in­clud­ing $22,000 to Pier­son over four months for “Iowa Polit­ic­al Con­sult­ing.” So far in the 2016 cycle, Pier­son has re­ceived $21,000 from the group, and an­oth­er $10,000 for at­tend­ing events such as the Con­ser­vat­ive Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Con­fer­ence. Which means that this cycle, Pier­son has per­son­ally re­ceived 15 times the amount the group has giv­en to polit­ic­al can­did­ates.

In the Nov. 9 press re­lease an­noun­cing Pier­son’s hir­ing, Trump said: “Kat­rina un­der­stands the need for real change in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and the im­port­ance of com­pet­ence in the next elec­tion.”

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