What to know about Trump's outreach with Arab Americans led by his daughter Tiffany's father-in-law


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Donald Trump’s allies are working to win over Arab American voter s who are unhappy with President Joe Biden’s support for Israel.

The effort is led by Massad Boulos, whose son married Tiffany Trump, the former president’s younger daughter, two years ago. Boulos, a Lebanese-born businessman, is now using his connections in the Arab American community and meeting with its leaders in Michigan, home to many Arab American Democrats who are disenchanted with Biden.

But any apparent political opportunity for Trump may be limited. Many Arab Americans remain offended by Trump’s ban, while in office, on immigration from several majority Muslim countries and other remarks they consider insulting. Trump also has criticized Biden for not being a strong enough supporter of Israel.

In interviews with The Associated Press, Boulos outlined his outreach efforts and discussed his plans. Those who have met with him shared their thoughts on whether the strategy is working.

An unknown emissary

Boulos, who is frequently overseas managing a Nigerian-based conglomerate, first became directly involved in U.S. politics in 2019 when he met Trump. At the time, his son Michael was dating Tiffany Trump.

Before the 2020 election, Boulos assisted with Arab American outreach in a minor role. His involvement has significantly expanded this year as Trump allies aim to exploit divisions within Biden’s Democratic base. Boulos is working closely with an Arab Americans for Trump group that has set up operations in Arizona and Michigan.

The Michigan meetings

In May, Massad and Michael Boulos traveled to metro Detroit with Richard Grenell, a key foreign policy adviser to Trump and his former ambassador to Germany, to meet with a group of close to 40 Arab American activists from across the country.

A little over a week later, Boulos returned for a more extensive round of engagements. He conducted individual meetings with several prominent community leaders and organized larger gatherings, each drawing nearly 50 Arab American community members.

Those who have engaged with Boulos so far are skeptical about the impact of these efforts. They note a lack of substantial evidence supporting the assertion that Trump is the better candidate for Arab Americans.

“Massad is unable to convince people to come to Trump’s side because he hasn’t offered anything substantial to the community,” said Osama Siblani, a publisher of the Arab American News in Dearborn.

Electoral impact

Both major parties have focused on the Arab American vote due to the community’s significant population in Michigan, which is expected to play a decisive role in the presidential election.

Trump won Michigan by just over 10,000 votes in 2016. Biden retook the state for the Democrats in 2020 by a roughly 154,000-vote margin.

Michigan holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, with more than 310,000 residents of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, according to the most recent census.

More than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters in February cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the presidential race, enough to pick up two delegates. In two Muslim-majority Michigan cities, including Dearborn, which holds close to 110,000 people, the “uncommitted” vote defeated Biden in the Democratic primary.

The Trump connection

Boulos is the latest relative to rise in Trump’s political circle. The former president has a long history of putting family members and their relatives in key roles in his campaigns and at the White House.

Recently, Trump handpicked his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as the Republican National Committee’s co-chair.

During his first term, he appointed his daughter Ivanka as a senior White House adviser and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to oversee major issues such as Middle East peace, criminal justice reform and the government’s coronavirus response.

Boulos calls Trump a “family friend.” But Boulos insists that his outreach efforts so far have been “more of a personal effort to reconnect with friends.” He adds that the key messages emerging from meetings with Arab Americans are communicated to Trump and influenced a recent statement on the Middle East posted on Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social.

But to some attendees of the meetings, the direct connection to Trump matters little when Boulos can’t make promises on future policy.

“Family members are are fine. But at the end of the day, we have to sit down with someone who’s going to be a policymaker,” Siblani said. “And knowing Trump, only Trump can sit down and talk about his policy.”

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Associated Press reporters Jill Colvin in Washington, Abby Sewell in Beirut, Lebanon, and Chinedu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.



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