Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey
Florida – Brad Parscale, who managed President Donald Trump’s campaign for nearly 2 1/2 years until he was demoted in July, was hospitalised for his own safety after threatening suicide while holding a handgun during a confrontation with his wife at his Florida home, local police said on Monday.
Parscale’s wife, Candice, called authorities shortly before 4 pm on Sunday to report that he had loaded a gun in front of her, prompting her to flee the house out of fear for her safety.
She told police that Parscale was still inside the house with multiple guns, that he had made several threats of suicide and that she feared he might attempt to take his own life.
Parscale was ultimately transported to Broward Health Medical Center under the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows authorities to detain a person they think poses a danger to themselves.
Fort Lauderdale Police Department reports from the incident reveal a grim and troubling picture of Trump’s former campaign manager. His wife said Parscale had been drinking heavily, had been physically abusive toward her, and had been stressed and making suicidal comments for weeks. She also told police that he “suffers from PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder, without elaborating.
Police removed 10 firearms from the home: five handguns, two rifles, two shotguns and a small revolver, according the report.
Several of the officers who responded to the incident wrote in their reports that Candice Parscale exhibited physical signs of what she said was previous abuse by her husband.
One officer wrote that she “had several bruises on both of her arms as well as scratches and bruising on her face,” and another wrote that they noticed “several large sized contusions on both of her arms, her cheek and forehead.”
One of the officers wrote that when asked how she received the bruising, Candice Parscale “stated Brad Parscale hits her.”
“When asked if he made these markings today, she claimed he did not,” reads the report. “I continued to ask if Brad Parscale physically assaulted her in anyway today and she said no, but he did forcibly smack her phone out of her hand when she was attempting to call Brad Parscale’s father.”
According to the reports, she described Parscale loading one of his guns directly in front of her, which prompted her to leave the house and take refuge outside. She “became so afraid for her safety that she immediately fled the residence on foot with no cellphone or belongings,” reads the report.
In an audio recording released by the police, Terry Behal – a real estate agent who was showing a house in the neighbourhood when Candice Parscale flagged her down for help – can also be heard noticing her bruises.
“What are those bruises? Oh no, did he do that?” Behal asks, at the end of the police recording. “Oh my gosh. Your arm – both your arms. Has he been hurting you?”
Sunday’s altercation marks the culmination of a turbulent tenure for Brad Parscale in Trump’s orbit.
In February 2018, Trump announced that Parscale, who had worked on his 2016 campaign as digital director, would serve as his 2020 campaign manager. But in July of this year, Parscale was demoted following accusations of profligate spending and anger from Trump over a June rally in Tulsa, Okla. Trump was expecting a large crowd, but just 6,000 supporters materialized amid concerns over attending an indoor rally during the coronavirus pandemic.
Parscale, who had publicly claimed that the Tulsa event had more than 1 million RSVPs, took much of the blame for the botched rally. Documents later showed that he and the campaign had pitched the president on a number of smaller and outdoor venues, including a proposed drive-in rally. His key mistake, advisers said, was promising Trump such a large crowd and saying so publicly.
Parscale ultimately stayed on the campaign as a senior adviser helping with digital efforts and other tasks.
Parscale was angry over being demoted by Jared Kushner – Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, with whom he had been close – rather than by the president himself, according to people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions.
But Parscale had spoken to Trump in recent weeks and had returned to the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters for meetings. He also had helped put together some of the videos for the Republican National Convention last month.
He felt under attack in recent weeks, Parscale told others, because of news stories about questionable spending and financial problems in the campaign. Trump advisers said they had grown concerned about Parscale in the days following his ouster as campaign manager, three people familiar with the matter said, but had felt he was doing fine in recent weeks.
Parscale, who was still employed by the campaign as of Monday, did not respond to requests for comment. His wife also could not be reached for comment.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh offered a statement Monday supportive of Parscale: “Our thoughts are with Brad and his family as we wait for all the facts to emerge.”
In a different statement Sunday, Murtaugh also offered support to Parscale, whom he called “a member of our family.” But after the president had been briefed on the incident, Murtaugh updated his initial statement, using Parscale’s personal situation as a cudgel to attack Trump’s political rivals.
“The disgusting, personal attacks from Democrats and disgruntled RINOs have gone too far, and they should be ashamed of themselves for what they’ve done to this man and his family,” Murtaugh said in his statement, referring to Republicans in Name Only, or RINOs, a dismissive term for Republicans who do not support the party’s policies or candidates.
The incident involving Parscale is the latest in a long list of interactions with law enforcement officials by current and former Trump staffers.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former 2016 campaign chairman, is serving a seven-year prison sentence. He was indicted in June 2018 by special counsel Robert Mueller for witness tampering and was later convicted of bank and tax fraud charges as well. Manafort’s 2016 campaign deputy, Rick Gates, who helped with Trump’s presidential transition, was also ensnared in Mueller’s Russia investigation, pleading guilty in early 2018 to conspiracy against the United States, as well as to lying to federal investigators.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who also served as his 2016 campaign chief in the final months of that campaign, was charged in August with defrauding donors as a part of a campaign to raise money for the president’s wall on the nation’s southern border.
In an interview, Behal said she doesn’t know the Parscales but was showing a house in their neighborhood and was just across the street from their home waiting for a client when Candice Parscale knocked on her car window to ask for help, saying, “I think my husband just killed himself.”
Behal said Candice Parscale nearly collapsed when she tried to help her into the car. She “had nothing on her – no keys, no phone,” Behal said, so they used Behal’s phone to call 911.
The police reports describe Brad Parscale as “clearly intoxicated,” and a video released by the police shows him, shirtless, holding a beer as he exits his house to come down his driveway to talk to the officers.
As he stands in his driveway starting to explain his version of events to an officer, another officer can be heard telling him several times to “get on the ground,” before tackling him and detaining him with handcuffs. In the video, Parscale does not seem to resist.
In the interview, Behal added that while she and Candice Parscale waited in her car for the authorities to arrive, Candice told her that Brad “has been very upset lately because he just lost his job.”