Trump campaign head is impelled to resign
Paul Manafort, a Republican political operative since the 1970s, was supposed to impose order on Donald Trump’s chaotic presidential campaign.
On Friday the chaos devoured Trump’s campaign chairman.
Weeks of sliding poll numbers and false starts had sapped Manafort’s credibility inside the campaign. A cooling relationship with Trump turned hot last weekend when the candidate erupted, blaming Manafort for a damaging newspaper article detailing the campaign’s internal travails, according to three people briefed on the episode.
Then a wave of reports about Manafort’s business dealings with Russianaligned leaders in Ukraine, involving allegations of millions of dollars in cash payments and secret lobbying efforts in the United States, threw a spotlight on a glaring vulnerability for Trump: his admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
“This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today.”
In fact, Manafort did not go voluntarily. “My father just didn’t want to have the distraction looming over the campaign,” Eric Trump, the candidate’s second son, explained in a Fox News interview. WASHINGTON In a twist, Manafort’s ouster came after a week in which Trump had taken several steps toward the kind of normalized candidacy Manafort had been striving for: The Republican nominee gave three speeches in which he generally stuck to a script; he mostly attacked Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, while refraining from berating other Republicans; and, on Friday he began running his first television advertisements.
The timing of Manafort’s departure largely overshadowed the news Thursday night when the candidate, who has long spurned apologies, announced at a rally that he regretted some of the more offensive things he has said — though without specifying which.
Manafort, 67, was hired in late March as Trump was facing a pitched battle to amass the number of delegates needed to capture the party’s nomination. He was seen as a peer to Trump, 70, and as someone whose advice Trump might heed.
He ended up taking the helm of the campaign when Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s previous campaign manager, was fired after repeatedly clashing with the candidate’s children.
Manafort helped defeat the “never Trump” movement within the Republican Party, opened lines of communication with party leaders in Washington and crushed a brief but noisy delegate uprising on the floor of the Republican convention in Cleveland on its first day. He also successfully pushed for the selection of Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana as Trump’s running mate.
But Trump never developed the sort of chemistry or comfort level with Manafort that he had with Lewandowski, campaign aides said. According to people briefed on the matter, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-inlaw, expressed increasing concern after a New York Times article published Sunday about allegations of cash payments made to Manafort’s firm for his work on behalf of his main client, Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukranian president, an ally of Putin.
Clinton’s campaign has repeatedly sought to yoke Trump to Putin, citing Trump’s praise for the Russian leader. And the avalanche of stories about Manafort’s work for pro-Russian entities in Ukraine was becoming untenable for the campaign, according to people briefed on the discussions.
“The easiest way for Trump to sidestep the whole Ukraine story is for Manafort not to be there,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who has become a counselor to Trump.