Identity Crisis

Trump Moves to Quell Campaign Divisions After Weeks-Long Skid

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee ended the internal campaign duel between Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort.

Donald Trump Ousts Lewandowski as Campaign Manager

Ben Carson once said there were two Donald Trumps—the bellicose stage personality irresistible to cable TV cameras and frustrated Republican voters, and a cooler, more thoughtful version who is empathetic behind closed doors.

Trump's presidential campaign seemed to have one manager for each side: Paul Manafort, a battle-tested Washington insider, was his standard bearer for the the steadier version. Corey Lewandowski, a combative former state police officer, valued the former reality TV show host's instinct for political savagery.

Trump himself was torn about Carson's metaphor—he initially agreed with the characterization during a news conference in March, then recanted minutes later. But on Monday, the New York billionaire took his most decisive step in choosing between the Two Trumps by parting ways with Lewandowski and shifting his responsibilities to Manafort.

"It has the potential to be a pivot point," said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for Mitt Romney's 2012 Republican presidential campaign. 

The shakeup also effectively ends an internal war that has plagued the campaign for months. Manafort's allies inside the campaign complained Lewandowski obsessed over access to Trump—sidelining new staff and blocking additional hires—to the detriment of the candidate. Lewandowski's proxies argued Manafort tried to water down the very thing that had delivered the nomination to Trump: the candidate's fiery rhetoric at rallies that fueled news cycle after news cycle.

As if to underscore a shift to more discipline, a Trump adviser who tweeted "Ding dong the witch is dead!" shortly after news of Lewandowski’s ouster this morning found himself on the outside of the campaign by the afternoon. 

“I regret sending out a tweet today alluding to the firing of Corey Lewandowski,” Michael Caputo wrote in a resignation letter to campaign leaders, CNN reported.

For the second time in one day, campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks commented on the exit of a staffer with a terse confirmation. "He is no longer associated with the campaign," she said.

Lewandowski's downfall was hastened by his increasingly toxic relationship with Trump's children, including Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the decision.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner viewed Lewandowski and his let-Trump-be-Trump approach as an enabler of the Republican's worst political instincts, according to a campaign aide with knowledge of the discussions. And Lewandowski told associates that Kushner, the owner of the New York Observer and a real estate company known as Kushner Properties, was in over his head by acting as a liaison between the campaign and House Speaker Paul Ryan's policy team. 

On Monday, Lewandowski said he had "a great relationship with the family" and he offered glowing praise of one particular member.

"I think Ivanka is somebody who understands her father and is a fantastic surrogate for this campaign," he said. "She's so polished, so professional."

But Trump's eldest daughter wanted her father to transition to the battle with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by tempering his proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the country, focus more on women's issues and stop his racially charged criticisms of a judge overseeing a class action suit against Trump University.

While Trump bristled at the advice to tone down the rhetoric, he increasingly relied on TelePrompters to deliver major speeches after the Republican primary season ended on June 7. Still, he vowed not to do the same at his rambunctious rallies that often invite protests and, at times, violence.

"Honestly, if I used TelePrompters from the rallies, I think the rallies would get smaller fast," Trump said in a Bloomberg Politics interview this month. "You gotta sort of wing it."

The internal split was also frustrating members of the Republican National Committee, the activists from around the country who help build out political ground operations in their states. 

With the Republican National Convention less than a month away, several RNC members said they continued to harbor serious concerns about Trump’s ability to win the general election.

One refrain: They regret trusting Trump’s chief strategist, Paul Manafort, when he told them at a private meeting in April that the former reality TV show host would dial back the incendiary style that fueled his primary victories and show a more genteel side that would appeal to general election voters. Instead, Trump spent the next two months triggering one scandal after the next: repeatedly criticizing Republican governors who opposed him in the primary, personally criticizing reporters at a news conference meant to highlight his donations to veterans' groups and holding his own conference call with surrogates where he urged them to continue to attack a judge based on his Mexican heritage.

“I would consider it a five-alarm fire,” Holland Redfield, a Republican National Committeeman from the Virgin Islands, said in an interview last week.

The internal split also caused confusion among donors.

Many big donors who spoke to Bloomberg in the past few weeks said they were concerned that the feud between Lewandowski and Manafort was spilling over into the effort to establish independent "super-PACs" to work on Trump's behalf.

One high-profile PAC, helped with the support of the billionaire real-estate investor and Trump friend Tom Barrack, was widely seen as being allied with Manafort because of the long friendship between Barrack and Manafort. Another group, known as Great America PAC, recently hired a Lewandowski loyalist, Stuart Jolly. Some donors said they were holding off on making contributions to any Trump super-PAC because they didn't want to insert themselves into the conflict between the two camps.

Some donors and their advisers even took to referring to the groups as the "Manafort PAC" and the "Lewandowski PAC."

"You can’t have a winning campaign that is at war with itself," said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and lobbyist who is supporting Trump. "This has to help."

With assistance from Zachary Mider and Sahil Kapur in Washington.

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