Trump Hires Breitbart Chief For Top Post, Diminishes Manafort Role In Shakeup

AP

Donald Trump is shaking up his senior campaign staff yet again in the wake of several weeks of sinking poll numbers and critical press coverage of his gaffes from the trail.

Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon will “temporarily step down from his role with Breitbart News” to join the team as the campaign CEO, while Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway will be promoted to campaign manager.

The Wall Street Journal first broke the news about the staff changes on Tuesday, which the Trump campaign confirmed in a statement sent out in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years,” Trump said in the statement. “They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win.”

“I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again,” he continued.

While Paul Manafort will stay on as campaign chairman and chief strategist, two Trump advisers who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity said that his internal role would be diminished as the Republican nominee tries to retake the reigns of his campaign.

The aides told the Post that Trump has felt “controlled” and “boxed in” by staffers urging him to tone down his rhetoric and pivot towards a general election audience. As a seasoned campaign operative, Manafort played a key role in trying to turn Trump’s understaffed, shoestring operation into a more traditional national presidential campaign.

But the notoriously blustery real estate mogul has shrugged off these efforts, continuing to get in trouble for off-the-cuff comments like his claim that “Second Amendment people” could keep Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal Supreme Court justices. As his poll numbers in national surveys and battleground states have fallen, Trump has expressed a wish to return to the kind of combative campaign that fueled his success in the Republican primary.

In a Tuesday radio interview in Wisconsin, Trump said his honesty was key to his support.

“I am who I am,” he said. “It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about ‘oh are you gonna pivot?’ I don’t want to pivot.”

With the new hires, Trump has signaled that he plans to fully embrace the no-holds-barred style he relied on in the primary.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a frustrated Trump has in recent days been working behind the scenes to acquire “firepower” to fuel his campaign, and he and Manafort met with Breitbart’s Bannon on Sunday at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The Post reported that Bannon, whose site has been a prominent booster of the Trump campaign, has been privately advising the real estate mogul for months, urging him to run as an “outsider” and “unabashed nationalist.”

CNN reported Tuesday that former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who was ousted from his role amid sexual harassment allegations, also met with Trump at the Bedminster course over the weekend. The Trump campaign has adamantly denied reports that Ailes will help the Republican nominee prepare for the upcoming presidential debates.

Trump will certainly have assistance on that front from his two newest hires, however. Conway, who runs The Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend and previously worked for a super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Bannon will help the campaign boost its advertising and polling efforts, according to the Post.

This is not the first time the campaign has undergone a major shakeup. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June after clashing with other senior staffers, including Manafort, who replaced him. Lewandowski has continued to advise and support Trump’s campaign in his new role as a CNN commentator, though he remained critical of Manafort. The Post reported that “many Trump aides” say Lewandowski had a hand in the staff changes rolled out this week.

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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