Who’s even running the Trump campaign right now? That’s really anyone’s guess, since the leadership seems to change from moment to moment. Wake up tomorrow morning and there could be a penguin running the show.
The latest changeup had campaign chair Paul Manafort relegated to a mostly symbolic role, according to sources close to the campaign. Eventually he simply resigned. That comes after weeks of reports that Trump and Manafort couldn’t get along, as well as dismal polling that had Trump dropping ludicrously behind Hillary Clinton.
Manafort’s troubles grew after his resignation, with new emails coming to light that show he failed to disclose his work for foreign agents. His company attempted to sway American public opinion in favor of a Putin-affiliated regime in the Ukraine. Trump has previously said that he opposed his staff working with entities tied to foreign governments.
Failing to report work for a foreign government is a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of up to a quarter million dollars.
The new leadership appears to be Steve Bannon, also known as the executive chairman of a blog calling itself Breitbart News. Pollster Kellyanne Conway, already working closely with the campaign, was promoted to campaign manager, though it’s unclear who made the staffing decisions.
Reports also indicated that disgraced Fox News head Roger Ailes will also join Trump as an advisor, amidst lurid sexual harassment scandals.
The new trajectory for the campaign seems to be letting Trump speak his mind, which should be entertaining for anyone who’s been watching the campaign in slack-jawed bemusement.
It’s not the first time that campaign staffers have been dragged around like rag dolls. Just two months ago, Trump got rid of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and replaced him with Paul Manafort. The two men reportedly hated each other, producing a toxic work environment that seems to have lingered to this day.
This all comes at a terrible time for Trump. In the last few weeks, he’s taunted the parents of a dead soldier, withheld an endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and hinted that someone should shoot Hillary Clinton.
In a weird twist, Trump has also refused to say much about the Olympics. That could be because the US has been relatively successful, which flies in the face of the stories he tells about the country no longer being competitive. If he acknowledges the success of American athletes, it might wear away at the narrative that the rest of the world is dominating us.
When Trump was at his worst, his old Lewandowski-led team attempted to rein him in and put the incendiary rhetoric under control.
But these new advisors have promised an opposite approach. Bannon and Conway have pledged to capitalize on Trump’s loose-cannon style, and allow him to simply be himself. They seem to think that’s what Americans want, but it’s probably just what Donald Trump wants. With any luck, Americans will be so repulsed by the real Trump that his polling will sink even lower. (Which polls? All of them.)