South Carolina

Despite reports, incoming USC president Caslen has no substantial ties to Trump

Incoming University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen has only spoken to President Donald Trump a handful of times, despite reports that suggest the two have “ties.”

One of those was in 2017, when Caslen was on a short list for National Security Advisor. Another time was at an Army football game when Caslen was serving as the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Other than that, there do not appear to be any substantial ties between Caslen and Trump, as some reports had claimed.

“I don’t have any ties with him other than the invitation to interview for national security adviser,” Caslen told The State. “Other than those few times, I’ve never met the guy ... I couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

Caslen has been largely silent when it comes to politics. He has retweeted Trump only twice, but both times were because Trump was honoring the Black Knights for their victories over both Air Force and Navy, The State found after examining every tweet Caslen has sent since he opened an account in 2014.

During the West Point speech, Trump did specifically point out Caslen, thanking him for his service and mentioning that the two had met, according to a video posted by the right-leaning Daily Caller. Trump mispronounced Caslen’s name and referenced only one prior meeting during the speech.

Caslen and Trump were photographed shaking hands after the encounter. However, as the superintendent of West Point he has been photographed beside former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former President George W. Bush, according to media reports.

Trump has never mentioned “Caslen” or “University of South Carolina” in a tweet, according to the Trump Twitter Archive, which catalogs all of the president’s tweets.

Caslen made one federal campaign donation, $25 to the Republican National Committee in 2008, according to the Federal Elections Commission. He has made no political donations to state candidates, according to data from the S.C. Ethics Commission.

In Caslen’s home state of Vermont, where he is also registered to vote, there is no record of him giving to a candidate, committee or party since at least 2014, the earliest year in which the Vermont Secretary of State keeps readily accessible records.

In New York, where West Point is based, there are no recorded campaign finance donations from Caslen, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

The military has restrictions on how members can participate in politics. While active duty personnel can vote, donate to campaigns and attend political rallies as a spectator, they are not allowed to participate in political fundraisers or speak at political events, according to official guidance from the U.S. Department of Defense.