Insiders: Trump team dangled ambassadorships to lure A-list inauguration singers

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President-elect Donald Trump's team is struggling so hard to book A-list performers for his inaugural festivities that it offered ambassadorships to at least two talent bookers if they could deliver marquee names, the bookers told TheWrap.

The bookers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were approached by members of Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee in recent weeks with offers of cash or even plush diplomatic posts in exchange for locking in singers.

The first insider said he was "shocked" at the proposal: "Never in a million years have I heard something so crazy," he said. "That was the moment I almost dropped the phone."

Trump's team has struggled to find talent outside of the low-wattage stars who endorsed him during the campaign. A meeting between Trump and Kanye West spurred speculation Tuesday that the the troubled rapper might perform. On Wednesday, news broke that Trump's team had managed to enlist 16-year-old former "America's Got Talent" star Jackie Evancho.

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20 celebrities who endorse Donald Trump

Stephen Baldwin


Baldwin, who was fired by Trump on two different seasons of "The Celebrity Apprentice," said during an interview with Don Lemon on an episode of "CNN Tonight" that Trump would make a "great" president "because he's not a politician, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks."  

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Gary Busey

The actor endorsed Trump back in 2011, even after being fired from season four of "The Celebrity Apprentice," and offered his praise for the presidential hopeful again recently. "He's a great guy. He's sharp. He's fast," he told Fox411. "He can change the country after the last eight years."  

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Dennis Rodman

The retired pro-basketball player tweeted: "@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don't need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016." He was fired from season two of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Lou Ferrigno

When asked by TMZ for his thoughts on Trump, the actor and former bodybuilder said, "I hope Donald goes all the way." He was also fired from a season of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Ted Nugent 

The musician wrote an article for WorldNetDaily in which he said, "[Trump] should be given the Medal of Freedom for speaking his mind in such a bold, honest, and straightforward manner."

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Tila Tequila 

The model and reality star posted a video on YouTube expressing her support for Trump.

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Wayne Newton

The Las Vegas entertainer announced his support on "Fox and Friends," “I love Donald, and he would make a great president,” he said. But he also voiced his support for other hopefuls, such as Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson. 

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Willie Robertson

The businessman and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” supported Trump at a rally in Oklahoma last year, where he was invited up on stage. He officially announced his endorsement in January. 

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Jesse Ventura 

Jesse Ventura

The former pro wrestler, former Minnesota governor, and actor was speaking with previous Trump staffer Roger Stone for "Off the Grid," when Ventura said, "I shocked my staff today. I came in and said, ‘You know what, as far as the Republicans are concerned, I hope Trump wins.'" Though he also added, "Now I’m not a Republican — I’m not a Democrat either — so ultimately, I’d like somebody else to win overall.”

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Terrell Owens 

The retired NFL wide receiver told TMZ Sports, "This may be what the country needs and Trump... He’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S. and has what it takes to change how government is run." He appeared on the most recent season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."   

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In a statement to TheWrap, Trump's team denied offering any ambassadorships. "There is no truth to this insinuation," said committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn. "First-class entertainers are eager to participate in the inaugural events. The inauguration as a whole will be an exciting and uniting celebration of freedom and democracy. We will be releasing further details at the appropriate time."

But according to the insider, there was no ambiguity about the ambassadorship offer. "My first thought was, 'Are you joking?'" he said. "But no, it was serious."

The insider, who has secured talent with the star power Trump's team is seeking for past inaugurations, said he "didn't like what was going on" and politely declined the offer. The conversation lasted only a few minutes, so no additional specifics were discussed, he said.

A second insider said he was offered a government post, including an ambassadorship, if he could wrangle a top artist. The insider, a talent manager, said he knew at least two other people who have been offered similar deals, but who did not wish to speak to the news media.

Asked how the subject of a possible ambassadorship came up, the second recruiter said he was offered "access to the administration."

"They said they were in the process of 'figuring out posts, ambassadorships and commissions' if that was of any interest," the manager said.

The manager said he declined the offer and did not ask which ambassadorships were on the table.

Both men who spoke to TheWrap about the ambassadorships asked not to be identified, and both, like most in left-leaning Hollywood, supported Hillary Clinton in the election.

TheWrap spoke previously to industry insiders who said the inauguration team has its sights set on top-tier talents like Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Aretha Franklin, and were willing to pay steep fees for the performers. Perry sang at the Democratic National Convention in July, and Franklin sang at President Obama's first inauguration.

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Katy Perry Clinton Iowa Rally
Singer Katy Perry, center, holds a sign in support of Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, as Clinton speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the presidential race, the nation's first nominating contest between front-runner Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining steam, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Singer Katy Perry attends the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner as a guest of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Iowa's Democratic Party. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Singer Katy Perry performs during a rally for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Clinton's odds of winning the Democratic presidential nomination are now at or near an all-time high, according to prediction markets PredictWise, Pivit, and PredictIt. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Singer Katy Perry performs during a rally for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Clinton's odds of winning the Democratic presidential nomination are now at or near an all-time high, according to prediction markets PredictWise, Pivit, and PredictIt. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Singer Katy Perry performs during a rally for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Clinton's odds of winning the Democratic presidential nomination are now at or near an all-time high, according to prediction markets PredictWise, Pivit, and PredictIt. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Singer Katy Perry listens to the national anthem at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Iowa's Democratic Party. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Singer Katy Perry, center, wears a dress bearing the campaign logo of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the presidential race, the nation's first nominating contest between front-runner Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining steam, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Singer Katy Perry (C) attends the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner as a guest of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Iowa's Democratic Party. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Singer Katy Perry attends the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner as a guest of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Iowa's Democratic Party. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Rewarding big campaign donors, fundraisers and other loyalists with ambassadorships is nothing new. According to the American Foreign Service Association, more than 40 percent of Obama's ambassador nominees in his second term went to political rather than career diplomats. In recent past administrations the figure was about 30 percent, according to NPR.

But handing out government posts for talent bookers is outside the norm.

One veteran inaugural organizer told TheWrap it is unusual to compensate talent and recruiters for an inauguration performance, which is usually considered a high-profile, high-prestige, patriotic gig. And the Sundance Foundation, a non-partisan group that advocates for open government and accountability, called the idea "alarming."

"It's bad policy to offer ambassadorships to unqualified, inexperienced individuals, no matter who is president," spokeswoman Jenn Topper said. "The public deserves an opportunity to vet the people who will be at the forefront of our diplomatic relations, and this alleged backroom dealing is alarming."

Ambassadors are nominated by the president, but must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Trump is expected to attend three inaugural galas on January 20 — two official inaugural balls, as well as the Salute to Our Armed Services Ball, according to the committee planning the events. That's far less than President Obama's 10 inaugural balls in 2009. The Obamas held only two balls for the 2013 inauguration.

Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, is having a hard time lining up the kind of high-caliber stars President Obama enjoyed during his inaugurations, including Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor and Franklin.

Asked by The Hill earlier this month if she would consider performing for Trump's inauguration, Franklin replied, "That's a very good question. ... We'll see."

Among those seen as more likely performers are Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, both of whom backed Trump's presidential run. Garth Brooks raised speculation he might perform when he told TMZ he would be open to the idea, if asked, but on Tuesday, a person with knowledge of the situation scuttled the idea.

The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that Evancho, a classical crossover vocalist, would sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at Trump's swearing-in ceremony. And earlier this week, the New York Post reported that Italian singer Andrea Bocelli has been personally approached by Trump to perform at the inauguration.

But Trump's team isn't just struggling to lure singers. Many marching bands have reportedly decided to sit out the festivities. And while the District of Columbia's planners have not revised a pre-election estimate that up to 900,000 people may turn out for inaugural events, the Associated Press reports there's little likelihood Trump will draw the 1.8 million who attended Obama's first inaugural.

At least two Hollywood insiders believe another artist on the Trump team's wish list is Gwen Stefani. Stefani is a judge on NBC's "The Voice," a show executive produced by Mark Burnett, who is not only the creator of Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," but is heavily involved in the inauguration planning.

"Nothing is off the table," the first insider said. "It's like an alternate universe."

Read original story Insiders: Trump Team Dangled Ambassadorships to Lure A-List Inauguration Singers (Exclusive) At TheWrap

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