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Trump campaign looks to beef up communications team to battle big Democratic field in 2020

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's team has been interviewing dozens of candidates for positions ranging from communications director to press secretary, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
  • That comes as several Democrats enter the 2020 race. More than a dozen are expected to be competing for the party's nomination. Some candidates are already on the offensive against the president and his proposals.
President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd of supporters during a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nov. 5, 2018.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

UPDATE: The Trump campaign announced a slew of hires Feb. 19, including communications directors and a press secretary. See the announcement at the bottom of this story.

President Donald Trump's campaign is looking to beef up its communications team to prepare for an onslaught of attacks from Democrats running in the 2020 campaign, CNBC has learned.

Trump's team has been interviewing dozens of candidates for positions ranging from communications director to press secretary, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Some candidates who have discussed jobs with the campaign currently work in the White House, according to the sources, who declined to be named.

The campaign, which is headed up by Trump 2016 digital media director Brad Parscale, is expected to officially announce the new additions in the coming weeks, one source said.

It was not immediately clear whom the campaign is considering for the positions.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign declined to comment.

The Trump campaign is beefing up its communications team as several Democrats enter the 2020 race. More than a dozen are expected to be competing for the party's nomination. Some candidates are already on the offensive against the president and his proposals.

During a recent CNN town hall in Iowa, California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has declared her candidacy for president, called Trump's proposed border wall a "medieval vanity project." She committed to not support a compromise government funding deal that includes wall funding, even if it included protections for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another 2020 hopeful, took a swipe at Trump on Twitter after his State of the Union speech on Tuesday about his boasting the jobs he claims his administration helped create for women.

"President Trump seems not to understand that the female jobs he created were Democratic women in Congress," the New York lawmaker said.

The Trump campaign will also need a communications shop that can respond to bad press that might come from the House Oversight and Intelligence committees' push to investigate the president and his administration.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced on Wednesday that the investigation will start to look into whether any foreign actors have leverage over Trump and whether any of his associates coordinated with Russian operatives.

The investigation will look into "whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates" Schiff's statement reads.

The Trump campaign is flush with cash as it goes on this hiring spree.

It has $19 million on hand plus another $15 million between its two joint fundraising committees that work in tandem with the Republican National Committee.

Read the Trump campaign's Feb. 19 press release:

Donald J. Trump for President Announces New Staff Hires for the 2020 Campaign

New additions include campaign communications, finance and administrative leadership

Arlington, VA – Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. today announced senior leadership roles for the re-election campaign's communications, finance and administrative teams.

Tim Murtaugh will serve as Director of Communications, joined by National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Director of Strategic Communications Marc Lotter. This team will lay out the case for the President's record of leadership and accomplishment and help spread his message to the American people.

Cole Blocker will join the campaign to serve as Director of Finance, and Megan Powers will serve as Director of Administrative Operations.

"These hires are the next step toward building a national campaign infrastructure with state-of-the-art communications and fundraising tactics, innovative use of social media and a nationwide army of surrogates and small dollar donors," said campaign manager Brad Parscale. "Together, we will spread the President's message far and wide and hold Democrat presidential candidates accountable for their extreme agenda."


Tim Murtaugh, Director of Communications

Tim Murtaugh will oversee the campaign's communications, building a team to oversee message strategy and planning, regional communications, contrast messaging and rapid response. He joins the campaign after two years as Director of Communications for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 60-person communications team, working daily with Secretary Sonny Perdue. Murtaugh has worked for decades in state and national politics, in senior roles at the Republican National Committee, Republican Governors Association, and numerous political campaigns. He also served as Communications Director for Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Murtaugh cut his teeth as a Virginia news reporter, before serving as Press Secretary for George Allen's successful 2000 Senate campaign and as Communications Director for Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

Kayleigh McEnany, National Press Secretary

Kayleigh McEnany will serve as National Press Secretary, coming to the campaign after serving as National Spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. A frequent guest on national television, McEnany was a CNN political contributor, columnist for Above The Law, and has written for various publications spanning the news spectrum, from Newsmax to McEnany graduated from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a BSFS in International Politics. She also studied politics and international relations at Oxford University, St. Edmund Hall. She recently authored the book The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement.

Marc Lotter, Director of Strategic Communications

Marc Lotter will serve as a campaign surrogate, build support for the President's message and grow the largest grassroots and national surrogate team in political history. Lotter served as a Special Assistant to the President and Press Secretary to Vice President Mike Pence during the first year of the Trump Administration. Prior to joining the administration, he served as Press Secretary to the Vice President during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition. A frequent surrogate for the White House on national and cable news shows, Lotter worked in top communications roles in Indiana State and local government for years, following a 13-year career as an award-winning producer and manager for television stations across the country.

Cole Blocker, Director of Finance

Cole Blocker will focus on building a nationwide fundraising organization to support the campaign and its joint fundraising efforts with the Republican National Committee. Blocker joins the campaign from the White House, where he served in the East Wing as the Deputy Director of the White House Visitor's Office, which oversaw official White House events, such as the Easter Egg Roll, attended by President Trump, Vice President Pence and other government officials. During the 2016 campaign, Blocker supported now Ambassador Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV in his role as Finance Vice Chairman for Trump Victory 2016, planning and executing finance events across the country. Blocker is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.

Megan Powers, Director of Administrative Operations

Megan Powers will work on campaign operations, joining the efforts of Chief Operations Officer Michael Glassner. She joins the campaign from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where she served as Senior Adviser and Press Secretary. Prior to her tenure at NASA, Powers served as Senior Lead Press Representative for the White House, organizing logistics for the press pool during the President's domestic travel. Powers was among the first officials to join the President's nascent campaign in May 2015, serving as National Campaign Coordinator and Press Advance Lead for events throughout the country, and organizing operations for the campaign's New York City headquarters. Powers is a graduate of New York University.