A Family Connection: Meet The Man Behind Trump’s Arab American Strategy

By Javier Sanchez | Monday, 17 June 2024 05:15 AM
Views 2.2K
Image Credit : Photo by Kansas Reflector

Massad Boulos, a Lebanese-born businessman who became part of the Trump family when his son married the former President's daughter, has taken on the task of persuading the politically influential Arab American community that Donald Trump is a superior choice to President Joe Biden.

This endeavor is not without its challenges, as many Arab Americans have noted Trump's pro-Israel stance and criticized his comments and policies as Islamophobic.

According to ABC News, Trump has a history of placing family members and their relatives in key positions within his campaigns and the White House. Boulos, whose son Michael married Tiffany Trump two years ago, is the latest family member to ascend in Trump's political sphere. He is leveraging his long-standing connections to garner support for the presumptive Republican nominee's 2024 campaign.

Trump's allies believe they can exploit discord within Biden's Democratic base over his support for the Israeli offensive in Gaza. The conflict has claimed the lives of over 37,000 people since Hamas' October 7th initiation, as reported by health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory. Biden faced a significant protest vote during the Michigan primary in February in areas with high numbers of Arab Americans, a crucial Democratic bloc.

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"The No. 1 point that is of high priority within the Arab American community is the current war in the Middle East," Boulos stated in an interview. "And the question is, who can bring peace and who is bringing war? And they know the answer to that."

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However, some of those who have met with Boulos have pointed out Trump's statements about Arabs and Muslims. As president, Trump banned immigration from several majority-Muslim 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 occasionally criticized Biden for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel and has threatened to deport pro-Palestinian protesters he labels as Hamas supporters.

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Osama Siblani, a publisher of the Arab American News in Dearborn, said to Boulos, "This isn’t about you being Lebanese and me being Lebanese. You can’t just buy votes. You have to give something substantial to the community. And Trump hasn’t done that yet."

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Boulos, who is known for his calm demeanor and humility, was born in Lebanon and moved to Texas shortly before attending the University of Houston. He obtained a doctor of jurisprudence degree and was actively involved in Republican politics as a student. After graduating, he joined his family's three-generation business and became the managing director and CEO of SCOA Nigeria, a conglomerate specializing in the assembly and distribution of motor vehicles and equipment.

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Boulos has a political background in his home country, having unsuccessfully run for a parliamentary seat in Lebanon in 2009. He describes himself as a "friend" of Sleiman Frangieh, a Christian politician allied with the Shiite party and the militant group Hezbollah. Frangieh is currently Hezbollah’s endorsed candidate for Lebanon’s presidential vacancy.

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Boulos became more directly involved in Trump's campaign after meeting the former President at a White House Christmas party in 2019. At the time, Michael Boulos was dating Tiffany Trump. Since his son's marriage to Tiffany Trump in 2022, Boulos' role in the campaign has significantly expanded, especially as Arab American dissatisfaction with Biden presented what Trump allies believe is a larger political opportunity.

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Boulos maintains a "very close working relationship" with the group Arab Americans for Trump, according to Bishara Bahbah, chairman of the group. The group, which claims independence from the Trump campaign, has established operations in Michigan and Arizona, states identified as priority areas by "people close to Trump," Bahbah said.

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Despite Boulos' efforts, some community leaders remain unconvinced. Siblani, for instance, argued that Boulos lacked "facts to prove his claim that Trump is better." He said, "Massad is unable to convince people to come to Trump's side because he hasn't offered anything substantial to the community, except that his son is married to Trump’s daughter and he has access. That is fine, but what we need is policy and what Trump will do."

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In response to these criticisms, Boulos stated that Trump "respects and admires" the Arab American community. He denied the existence of a "Muslim ban," arguing it was actually "extreme vetting from certain parts of the world." He also said that the key messages from his meetings are communicated to Trump.

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However, Trump's outreach efforts have not been without criticism. Ammar Moussa, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, said in a statement that Trump "is the biggest threat to the Muslim and Arab community." He added, "Trump and his campaign are racists and Islamophobes. Period. President Biden, on the other hand, is working tirelessly towards a just and lasting peace.”

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Despite these challenges, Boulos plans to continue his outreach efforts until the November election. He emphasized that he is driven solely by being a "concerned citizen and a Republican," and has not considered a role in Trump's administration if the Republican were to win. "I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that at this time. I didn’t give this any thought whatsoever, but definitely I do not aspire for anything," he said.

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