In the spring, David Bossie was banished from President Donald Trump’s world — just like so many high-profile aides before him.
It didn’t last long.
In just a matter of six months, Bossie has gone from confidant to pariah to confidant once again.
He went from being a top campaign adviser and possible chief of staff candidate to the ostensible subject of a blistering Trump campaign statement issued after allegations emerged that Bossie was using one of his political groups to profit off the president’s name. And then, just like that, he was back on Trump’s call list, given a campaign role and welcomed on presidential trips.
He accomplished the turn-around using a playbook that has become all-too-familiar in the Trump era: Defend the president, keep company with those who could influence the president and score a one-on-one meeting to make your case.
“There’s always a pathway to redemption,” said a former staffer who is also back in the fold after being pushed out at one point.
Over the past few weeks, Bossie has seemed omnipresent at Trump events. He sat alongside Trump’s top Capitol Hill allies at the House impeachment hearings. He flew with Vice President Mike Pence on Air Force Two. He was seen standing with Trump and Pence as they watched the House impeachment votes backstage at a Battle Creek, Mich., arena before a campaign rally, according to a person who was backstage.
The campaign has also brought him on board, naming him the co-chairman of Trump’s Maryland campaign team and speaks regularly with the president and his re-election team, according to six people familiar with the situation.
By GABBY ORR and DANIEL LIPPMAN
His quick and quiet return followed an extended one-on-one meeting with Trump in the Oval Office in August in which Bossie refuted the allegations against him. He took a few minutes to outline his group’s ongoing political activities, including its ad campaign in support of the Trump agenda, and to explain to the president that he was working on his behalf, the people said.
The meeting had been set up by a senior White House official but came after several others who are influential with Trump persuaded the president he needed Bossie, especially during an impeachment fight. Those outside advisers include Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, according to those familiar with the situation. Fox News host Sean Hannity also put in a good word for Bossie, according to one of the people. Hannity didn’t return a request for comment.
“There’s a handful of people in Washington, D.C. who know what the impeachment process is like,” said lobbyist Bryan Lanza, who worked for Bossie at the conservative political group Citizens United before joining the Trump campaign in 2016. “Dave Bossie not only knows the impeachment process he knows how to fight the impeachment process and that’s what makes him a valuable asset to President Trump.”
Bossie isn’t alone. Trump confers regularly with fired aides, including Lewandowski and Priebus. He is expected to bring back his ousted personal aide John McEntee to the White House. And he even appears to have forgiven former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who he once said was “dumped like a dog by almost everyone,” but now has promoted Bannon’s new impeachment-focused radio show and podcast, “War Room,” at least seven times on Twitter.
Bossie declined to answer specific questions for this report, but did pass along a statement.
“I’ve been a proud supporter of President Trump from the beginning,” he wrote. “During the 2016 campaign, I had the privilege to serve as his deputy campaign manager, and since he’s been president it’s been my honor to help in any capacity I can. I look forward to continue working in support of President Trump’s agenda and his re-election in 2020 to keep America great.”
While Bossie’s career in politics spans back to the Reagan-era, he started to make a name for himself in conservative circles investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton as a Senate and House staffer in the 1990s.
Bossie’s Clinton focus continued once he left Capitol Hill. At Citizens United, which Bossie would eventually lead, Bossie worked aggressively to file public records requests and lawsuits meant to uncover damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
He also helped produce documentaries meant to derail Clinton’s presidential aspirations. The push to air “Hillary: The Movie” before the 2008 Democratic primaries was blocked by the federal government. A subsequent lawsuit over that documentary led to the landmark Supreme Court case that opened the door to more unregulated spending in elections from outside groups.
In 2010, Trump came into Bossie’s life. Bossie first met Trump through a mutual friend, prominent Republican donor Steve Wynn, while organizing an annual charity golf tournament at a club Trump had just bought in Sterling, Va., according to a book Bossie wrote with Lewandowski.
Soon after, Trump and Bossie became friends. Bossie was a connection into the political world as the real estate mogul toyed with running for office. It was Bossie who introduced Trump to both Bannon and Lewandowski, two people who later became key components of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Bossie also assumed a critical role on Trump’s haphazard team, taking on the role of deputy campaign manager in September 2016. Two months later, after Trump had just shocked the world on election night, Bossie got a shout out from the president-elect during his victory speech.
When Trump’s team turned to preparing to govern, Bossie was tapped deputy executive director of the presidential transition.
“A friend of mine for many years,” Trump said when he first hired Bossie. “Solid. Smart. Loves politics, knows how to win.”
During the transition, Bossie was even considered for a White House job, likely deputy chief of staff for operations, which is responsible for the daily administration of the White House. But Priebus and others decided his hard-charging style would be a better fit on the outside, where he’s popular with the base, according to two people familiar with the situation. Bossie took to TV to defend the president and pumped out two glowing books on Trump with Lewandowski.
“David Bossie has worked hard in the trenches of the conservative nationalist movement and supported Trump before it was a fashionable Republican stance,” said another outside ally. “He’s very well regarded by the Trump base of loyal voters and activists.”
By late 2018, Bossie was well regarded enough that he was briefly mentioned as a possible candidate for White House chief of staff after Trump pushed out John Kelly in December. “This White House needs a Bossie chief of staff,” read an endorsement in the Washington Examiner at the time. The idea never took off.
But just a few months later, Bossie suddenly found himself on the outside looking in.
In May, Bossie was accused of raising millions off Trump’s name for the Presidential Coalition, a Trump-supporting political group, but spending little on political activities. The allegations were made based on a review of Internal Revenue Service filings by the media organization Axios and the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for a reduced influence of money in politics. The Presidential Coalition, which Bossie founded in 2005 to support President George W. Bush, had been using fundraising materials featuring images of Bossie and Trump together.
Without mentioning Bossie by name, Trump authorized his campaign to issue a severe rebuke, urging authorities to investigate groups that used Trump’s likeness to make money.
“President Trump’s campaign condemns any organization that deceptively uses the President’s name, likeness, trademarks, or branding and confuses voters,” the campaign said at the time.
Bossie was out.
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Bossie disputes the ratio of money spent on political activities and faults the reporting for not including the amount of money the Presidential Coalition had in the bank, which was being stockpiled for an ad campaign, according to a person close to the Presidential Coalition. Others familiar with the situation said groups, such as the Presidential Coalition, need to spend a considerable amount of money to raise money.
“Dave Bossie didn’t do anything wrong,” said Michael Caputo, who served as a campaign adviser in 2016. “In reality, Bossie didn’t even do anything differently. … He was raising money the way conservatives have been fundraising for 40 years. President Trump may not like the way that works, but the president doesn’t like the way Washington works. It is what it is.”
At the time, Bossie said he was being targeted by “unabashed left-wing activists” at the Campaign Legal Center, which has reported it received donations from left-leaning organizations.
“We are unfairly targeted by left-wing smear tactics because we are outspoken defenders of the president,” he wrote in a statement at the time.
The Presidential Coalition, an affiliate of Citizens United, says it has spent $3 million in 2019 on promoting Trump’s agenda and contributing to state and local candidates and groups.
That includes $1.35 million on TV and Facebook ads opposing impeachment in 17 House districts in New Mexico, New York, Michigan and South Carolina. The group expects to spend roughly another $1 million on anti-impeachment ads after the House sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate, according to the person close to the Presidential Coalition.
This past week, in response to questions about Bossie, the Trump campaign issued a glowing statement without mentioning the Presidential Coalition.
“David Bossie’s hard work and dedication were key to President Trump’s election in 2016,” said spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “We look forward to working closely with him in 2020 to re-elect the president. His insights and experience will be invaluable.”
In other words, Bossie’s back.
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.