We now officially know the guests that Donald Trump has invited to the first 2016 presidential debate.
It was recently reported that Hillary Clinton invited to the debate Mark Cuban, a businessman and investor who has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump and who frequently goes after the Republican candidate in the media. In response, Trump threatened to invite Gennifer Flowers, a woman with whom Bill Clinton had an affair in the 1990s. Flowers promptly accepted the invitation, only for the campaign to say that they hadn’t formally invited Flowers.
Indeed, Gennifer Flowers will not be in attendance for the debate on Monday. Instead, as reported by NBC’s Ali Vitali, joining Trump will be several of his advisers and supporters, many of whom spoke for him at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Here are Trump’s debate guests.
Trump’s first debate guest is Mark Geist, a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack who has been a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton. He co-authored the non-fiction book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which would later become the basis for the Michael Bay film of the same name. He was played by Max Martini in the movie.
Geist has endorsed Donald Trump for president, and over the summer he appeared in an ad for Trump in which he walks over gravestones while telling voters they must stop Hillary Clinton.
He also spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, recounting his experience in Benghazi and explicitly blaming Hillary Clinton for the deaths of his friends during the attack.
“Thank you America for showing us the support and dedication that should have been offered by Hillary and her state department to those who actually saved their asses,” he said in response to a standing ovation from the audience.
Also in attendance for the presidential debate will be Bruce LaVelle, the Executive Director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. This organization consists of men and women of all different backgrounds who are trying to fight the notion that Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot.
“He’s not anything like that,” LaVelle told Esquire back in July. “We’re trying to get to a place where we can get more surrogates, people who look like me who have more access to media as well as different communities, to let them know.”
LaVelle is also the former GOP Chairman of Gwinnett County in Georgia, and he was one of the state’s delegates at the Republican National Convention. LaVelle has appeared in the media to defend Trump on comments deemed insensitive to the African American community, such as when Trump repeatedly told them they should vote for him because they have nothing to lose.
Trump’s third debate guest is Karen Vaughn, mother of fallen Navy Seal Aaron Vaughn. Her son was killed in Afghanistan in 2011 when his helicopter was shot down, according to Defend Freedom Tour. She is the Senior Military Families Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, and she came to Trump’s defense over the summer when he feuded with the Khans, a Gold Star Family who spoke in opposition to Trump at the Democratic National Convention.
“They’re just one family,” she said at the time. “Families get offended all the time and one thing that I like to say is that, because I’m a Gold Star mother, I don’t think that gives me special privilege. I don’t think that means people need to bow down in my presence.”
Vaughn spoke in support of Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. In her speech, she said American needs new, strong leadership.
“There is no adversary the US military cannot defeat if we unbind them from the restrictive, ludicrous rules of engagement they’ve been forced to fight under for the past seven years,” she said.
Next up is Mike Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general. His name was actually floated as a potential running mate pick before Indiana Governor Mike Pence was ultimately selected as Trump’s vice presidential nominee. He is now a Trump adviser who often makes appearances at rallies, where he introduces the Republican candidate. Flynn spoke at the Republican National Convention, and his speech primary focused on foreign policy and American exceptionalism.
“We are tired of Obama’s empty speeches and his misguided rhetoric,” Flynn said in his RNC speech. “This has caused the world to have no respect for America’s word, nor does it fear our might.”
Flynn has been quite fierce in his criticism of Hillary Clinton, saying that she doesn’t know the difference between a truth and a lie and that she will “leave Americans behind on the battlefield,” according to The Washington Post.
Another retired Army lieutenant general who will be attending the debate is Keith Kellogg, one of Donald Trump’s national security advisers. Kellogg is also the executive vice president of an intelligence and information technology consulting firm based in Virginia, according to The Washington Post. During the Iraq war, he served as chief operating officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Kellogg and Flynn recenty co-authored an op-ed explaining why they believe Donald Trump is the leader the country needs. They argued that Trump listens to the advice of those around him and is willing to change direction, which are both important qualities for a commander-in-chief to have.
“If Americans are satisfied and believe that past policies are the shining path forward, then the choice for them is clear,” they wrote. “If they believe we can do better, Trump is their man in the room. His desired path is derived from the strength of the American people and Trump’s belief that their welfare comes first. It is a path of strength, of consideration and of the future.”