U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday was running behind schedule, but the officers at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference were pleasantly occupied enjoying the music.
A police captain in a cowboy hat and Trump 2020 socks was bobbing his head to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” A sales representative from a body camera vendor was Shazaaming The Animal’s “House of the Rising Sun.” And when the Village People’s “Macho Man” blasted through the Skyline Ballroom’s PA system at around 10:15 a.m., there was audible laughter—someone even remarked about “the psychology” of playing this particular song at a Trump event for cops.
The music was so good that when Paul Cell, the president of the IACP, took the stage, his first order of business was to solicit a round of applause, not for the president, but for the playlist. While the music at Donald Trump rallies has been extensively covered by the media, the president, unlike nearly every other candidate looking to seize his office in 2020, has yet to release his official playlist—a fact made puzzling by the sheer volume of bangers the playlist seems to contain.
While such a file might seem imminently attainable through existing public records laws, under the Presidential Records Act, most presidential records can not be released until five years after the president leaves office. However, Gizmodo identified a 67-song Spotify playlist maintained by a member of the White House Advance Office that appears to contain nearly all, if not all, of the president’s allegedly hand-picked rally songs.
“Macho Man” is a recurring fixture of Trump’s rally music, as is Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and various tracks from the Rolling Stones, one of which played at Monday’s rally: “Play With Fire.” On Spotify, there are 2,900 playlists that include “Macho Man,” and 8,970 playlists with “Play With Fire.”
While Spotify’s search functionality does not seem to provide a way to craft a query for playlists that include both songs, Gizmodo was able to identify these playlists with a simple Google search: site:open.spotify.com/playlist “play with fire” + “macho man.” Of the two playlists that Google indexed, one stood out: A playlist indexed on August 7 called “Rally” by a user named “cambro_9.” The name of the playlist had since been changed to “Rock.”
The playlist in question contains many of the songs frequently cited as being heard at Trump events. The first songs on the playlist were added on April 29 of this year, two days after his Make America Great Again rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. These songs include Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music” and the Rolling Stone’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” notably two artists who have repeatedly expressed their anger at their music’s inclusion in president’s mixtapes.
The next update to the playlist was the addition of 26 songs on June 20, again two days after a large campaign rally, this time at the Amway Centre in Orlando, Florida. This behaviour seems consistent with a pattern of the user updating the playlist within days of big campaign events (as was the case again with 13 tracks added one day after a Keep America Great rally on August 1 at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio).
The user cambro_9, who had 11 public playlists until Thursday afternoon when it suddenly fell to two, follows 120 people and has 44 followers. Of those public playlists—which, before they were made private, included an Eminem-heavy rap playlist titled “B-Rabbit Beats” and another playlist titled “Jah Feel” with tracks from Slightly Stoopid, Bob Marley, and Sublime—one immediately stood out.
That playlist, titled “Saltdaddy,” was created by an account under the name Michael Ambrosini, which is also the name of Trump’s former Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of the Chief of Staff and current Executive Director for the Michigan Republican Party. Both of those accounts follow each other.
A username on found on Instagram, cambro9, is similar to one found on Spotify and belongs to an account with the display name Chris Ambrosini. Mike Ambrosini has a brother named Christopher, according to public records reviewed by Gizmodo. Cambro_9 then is likely the account of Christopher Ambrosini, who, according to the 2019 annual report to Congress on White House office personnel, is a lead advance representative for the president making $US80,000 ($116,139) a year.
That Instagram account is private, but the username appears in an Instagram photo from a non-private account from another apparent Trump staffer tagged at the White House and captioned: “When the Advance team tries to advance ourselves.”
The White House Office of Presidential Advance is a little-known team responsible for coordinating travel and logistics for the President and his crew. These tasks can include scouting locations for a presidential visit, figuring out where the press needs to be corralled, set design for the various events, and even preparing for and preventing protests. (Last year, for example, Buzzfeed News reported that a member of the advance team blocked a photographer from taking a photo.)
Gizmodo reached out to Christopher and Michael Ambrosini for comment but did not immediately receive a response. After reaching out, however, the “Rally” playlist was renamed “Rock” and made private. Despite this fact, however, it can still be accessed by anyone.
Though the playlist was made private after Google’s indexing, we are still able to access them through their original URL. It would seem then that if you know the URL of a Spotify playlist, it doesn’t matter if it is private or public, it is still viewable by any Spotify listener, even when they’re not signed in. We’ve reached out to Spotify about what appears to be a bug but did not immediately hear back.
To be clear, Trump and his playlists have been reported on for years and existed in some form or another—on or off Spotify—long before the creation of “Rally” by cambro_9. But by all indications, this playlist bears a remarkable resemblance to the president’s own preferred rally tunes. If it doesn’t belong to the president, it does seem to belong to someone with an infatuation for his tastes in music.
Who knows, maybe there really are two people out there who unabashedly stan “Macho Man.”