- Lewandowski had been a controversial figure in campaign
- Campaign manager sparred with other officials, reporters
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign abruptly announced the departure of Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager — removing a controversial figure at a critical moment when Trump is trying to convince voters and donors he can recover from weeks of missteps and falling polls.
Lewandowski had been with Trump since the start of his campaign and has been an increasingly divisive figure on the campaign trail, sparring with reporters and fellow Trump operatives, including campaign strategist Paul Manafort. For months, Ivanka Trump and his other adult children expressed deep skepticism of Lewandowski’s managerial style.
Trump made the decision after both Manafort and Lewandowski urged him over the weekend to pick one of them to lead the campaign, according to two people familiar with the campaign.
Choosing Manafort, a veteran Washington operative who serves as campaign chairman, to absorb the remaining responsibilities of Lewandowski, one of the first staffers hired by Trump as campaign manager, is the clearest sign of Trump’s desire to reboot his campaign as more broadly appealing, and also more acceptable to skeptical Republicans and others he needs to win the White House. Manafort has pushed Trump to use TelePrompters and to lay out a less bitterly divisive and scattershot message from the real-estate billionaire.
Just minutes after news broke Monday, Manafort held a conference call with senior staffers to discuss plans to quickly build out the team, a Trump aide told Bloomberg. In addition, Trump begins his first overseas trip — to Scotland — as the presumptive nominee this weekend.
But Trump has tried this before. In fact, Manafort’s hiring was viewed as Trump’s first attempt to take his campaign from an insurgency built on raw emotion into a professional political operation, but the move quickly fell victim to infighting and competition for
Trump’s attention between loyalists like Lewandowski and newcomers like Manafort.
"I’m a very intense person and my expectation is perfection because I think that’s what Mr. Trump deserves," Lewandowski said on CNN on Monday afternoon. "Bringing in a professional like Paul [Manafort] helped us to grow the campaign."
Trump has been facing pressure from within his own inner circle -- including from donors -- who are growing increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of coordination and communication, members of Trump’s staff told Bloomberg Politics, at a crucial moment in the presidential race.
Lewandowski was a particular target of outside criticism over his brash style. He also was a controversial figure with some in the press, after an incident where he was accused of knocking a reporter to the ground. Florida officials investigated the incident, but dropped the inquiry without charges.
There’s also a growing impatience among some on Trump’s payroll that the candidate has failed to fill key roles within his campaign, including traveling press secretary and communications director, while Democrat Hillary Clinton’s synchronized political machine capitalized on a string of negative Trump headlines.
Trump has, however, brought on board Keith Nahigian, a veteran GOP strategist and former campaign manager for Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign. Nahigian, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is currently working on campaign’s surrogate strategy and it’s unclear if his role will be expanded in the coming weeks.
The frustration among Trump’s allies increased after his speech last week in Manchester, N.H., where he responded to the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub. Many in Trump’s inner-circle had predicted that he would get a bump in the polls, as he did following the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Instead, he faced a well-orchestrated rapid response machine from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, which hammered him for days.
Democrats also seized on a mistake in Trump’s speech, in which he said the Queens, New York-born shooter was from Afghanistan. The shooter was born in Queens. Staffers had accidentally uploaded the wrong version of the speech into the TelePrompTers and later posted the correct version on Trump’s Facebook page.
A Bloomberg Politics poll released after the shooting showed him trailing Clinton by 12 percentage points.
Members of Trump’s team also told Bloomberg Politics there still was a schism between Manafort and Lewandowski.
The campaign has built two distinct communications operations: one at its New York headquarters, and another in Cleveland for the convention. There have been instances of friction between each team.
During a swing through California last month, for instance, the campaign never publicized Trump’s meeting with female executives in the state, or the endorsements from lengthy list of veterans. At the time Trump was facing questions about his failure to donate to vets groups.
While Manafort’s allies blame the lapse on a power struggle, Lewandowski’s backers said some veterans didn’t want their names on the news release, and that final versions weren’t offered until after the news cycle had passed.
Some members of the Trump campaign had said that a reshuffling of the campaign—a merger of the Lewandowski and Manafort teams that reassigned roles—will be coming soon.
Still, one adviser described the campaign as overwhelmed. Another said the campaign has been unable to focus Trump on more specific events, such as visiting shuttered factories or failing schools.
Manafort and Lewandowski have played down their rivalry in discussions with Republican officials -- and to their boss. Trump doesn’t carry a mobile phone or use e-mail, giving staff in close proximity—most often Lewandowski—greater influence. “Corey and Paul get along great,” Trump said in a Bloomberg Politics interview earlier this month. “If they’re fighting, I get rid of one or the other or do something.”