Snack Food Executive to Host Trump Fundraiser With Virus Surging

President Donald Trump is heading to coronavirus-stricken Florida for a high-dollar campaign fundraiser hosted in Hillsboro Beach by Troy Link, chief executive officer of Link Snacks Inc.

The event is expected to bring in about $10 million for the president’s re-election, according to a person familiar with the event. A spokeswoman for the snack food company, known for offbeat ads pitching its beef jerky, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Snack Food Executive to Host Trump Fundraiser With Virus Surging

The fundraiser -- with tickets setting supporters back $580,600 per couple, according to the Washington Post -- comes after Trump was outraised by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for two consecutive months. The former vice president banked $141 million in June, according to his campaign, besting Trump’s $131 million haul.

But the president’s visit to Florida also coincides with a surge in coronavirus cases in the state, where Republicans will gather for their party convention next month. On Thursday, Florida’s Department of Health announced 8,935 new cases, bringing the state’s total to over 230,000. In Miami-Dade County some 92% of intensive care hospital beds were full.

Eager to restart economic activity before November’s election, Trump claimed earlier this week the country was “in a good place.” He disagreed with public health officials who blamed the flood of new virus cases on states that ended restrictions on public activity too quickly. Florida was among the most aggressive in easing restrictions, with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis allowing bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues to resume operations in early June.

The ongoing crisis has taken a toll on Trump’s political standing, with polls showing him trailing Biden substantially and a majority of Americans disapproving of his handling of the pandemic. The president has intensified his travel schedule in recent weeks, hoping to demonstrate a return to normal and to divert attention to more favorable topics.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Thursday defended the decision for the president to travel, dismissing concerns about Trump’s safety.

“Life comes with risk” and Trump needs to govern, Meadows said. “We can’t operate in the spirit of fear.”

Trump’s visit will also include a stop at U.S. Southern Command in Doral, where he’ll be briefed on recent efforts to intensify drug interdiction in the Caribbean Sea and east Pacific Ocean.

The White House says that an increase in military assets announced earlier this year has led to the seizures of more than $1 billion in drugs, including more than 70,000 kilograms of cocaine and 13,500 pounds of marijuana.

Snack Food Executive to Host Trump Fundraiser With Virus Surging

Trump has sought to highlight counter-narcotics efforts as part of his re-election campaign, hoping to build support in communities that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic. But the official event also means taxpayers will largely foot the bill for his travel, reducing the cost to his campaign of attending the fundraiser.

Link’s company has been connected to Trump previously, representing Wisconsin at a 2018 “Made in America” showcase at the White House. The snack food executive also made headlines in 2006 when he was sentenced to two years probation for allegedly chasing a herd of mule deer in a Nebraska national forest with a helicopter, according to the Superior Telegram.

The fundraiser also comes as Republican officials scramble to raise money for the party’s convention, which Trump moved last month to Jacksonville from Charlotte, North Carolina, after being told that attendees could face pandemic-related social distancing requirements in the Tar Heel State. But the New York Times reported Thursday that DeSantis has asked supporters not to donate to the convention because of a dispute with Susie Wiles, his former campaign manager who’s now working with convention planners.

Organizers are still working out logistics for the August 24-27 event, with Trump expected to accept his party’s nomination on the final night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. But the rapid spread of the virus has led the Republican National Committee to explore using an outdoor minor league baseball park or the stadium of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars instead.

Trump’s trip to the Miami area may also highlight a brewing controversy over comments attributed to Katie Miller, communications director to Vice President Mike Pence, in a new book by NBC News reporter Jacob Soboroff.

In the book, Miller is quoted as saying “Why do we need to have ‘Little Havana’?” as the south Florida native argues that immigrants in the U.S. should do more to assimilate.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that Miller told her the quote was “not true as described in the book” and defended the president as an “ally of the Cuban community.”

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