Who Is Mark Geist, Donald Trump's Debate Guest? The Former Marine Supports The Candidate's Policies

Before you settle in to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in Monday's first presidential debate of the general election, it wouldn't hurt to brush up on some of the lesser-known names involved. As it's the first time the two candidates will face one another on stage, it's clear that they've each invited guests that demonstrate some part of the political identity. Tonight, for example, Trump invited Mark Geist as one of his guests for the debate — but who is Geist, and why did Trump want him in his corner on such an important night?

The short answer: Geist is a former marine and a member of the Annex Security Team that fought the group (later identified as members of the extremist group Ansar al-Sharia) attacking the temporary mission base in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. The attacks left four American citizens dead — including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, State Department Information Management Officer Sean Smith and two security agents — and has since become an event/buzzword that has stuck to then-Secretary of State/now presidential hopeful Clinton (despite numerous hearings, reports and numerous debunking explainers).

Geist endorsed Trump back in February along with his former teammate John Tiegen, prior to the end of the Republican presidential primaries

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At the time, according to a release by the Trump campaign, Geist was in favor of Trump's flair for the bombastic and militaristic:

We, perhaps more than any Americans, know the absolute and imperative reason that we elect Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. First and foremost, under a Trump administration, the request for additional security by an ambassador would have been heeded, and second, there is no question, when the attack came, he would have moved heaven and earth to provide the necessary forces to protect and reinforce our warriors. Mr. Trump is the bold, decisive leader America needs at this time... Under President Trump, many conflicts will be avoided because our enemies will fear the United States and our military.

For Trump, the endorsements of Geist and his ilk is a particular boon because it plays into a scandal and cultural zeitgeist moment that his opponent cannot seem to shake. It's one thing to present facts about Benghazi and the events that went down in September 2012 — to examine the 13 public hearings and various documents prepped by bipartisan groups headed by house republicans and Clinton's testimonies that found no wrongdoing on Clinton's part — and another thing to have a veteran and survivor of a horrible tragedy at your side.

However, given Trump's penchant for appealing to the emotional "truthy" vibes instead of the well-sourced truth, it's not all that much of a surprise.