After protesting all week that the announcement of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as new campaign chairman and Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager for the Trump campaign did not represent a demotion of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or even a campaign shakeup, it appears that the Trump campaign was spinning the truth.
As The Washington Post reports, Trump announced the resignation of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday morning, saying: "This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."
On Wednesday, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told CNN that Bannon and Conway’s hiring did not mean a campaign shake-up or portend any dismissal of Manafort, blustering, “No one's out. When you shake up your campaign, that usually means someone is out. This was announced as an expansion.”
Manafort’s ouster may well have been instigated by the new team at the Trump campaign. One source who is close to Manafort told the Post, “He didn’t seem like he was going to do it. He said, ‘Look I think I can still help Donald.’”
The Post reported that Republican strategists worried that Manafort’s guidance had not triggered any building of a political infrastructure in key battleground states.
But more significantly, Manafort has been the subject of increasing scrutiny in recent weeks because of his dealings with former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. There were reports that Manafort received $12 million in undisclosed cash payments.
A GOP strategist told the Post that Manafort’s work for pro-Russian forces combined with the appointments of Bannon and Conway was enough to trigger Manafort's exit, opining, “If you had had one of these things happen, it would have been survivable. But you had two of these things in concert. One thing I don’t think Trump will tolerate is the focus being on someone else rather than himself.”
Friends of Manafort told the Post that Manafort knew his political baggage could become an issue if he took the high-profile job with Trump. One said, “He knows he’s been doing this stuff. It was going to become an issue. He wasn’t prepared to tamp it down. When he decided to re-enter high profile American politics, and he ratcheted it up with lots of Sunday shows and TV appearances. He had to know he was putting himself out there as a target.”
“He didn’t seem like he was going to do it. He said, ‘Look I think I can still help Donald.’”
Friend of Paul Manafort's, suggesting Manafort was forced out
Another source who knows Manafort told the Post that Manafort’s exit could spell trouble for Trump, asserting, “Any semblance of the sort of structured political advice he was going to get from Manafort is going to be gone now. You don’t have a voice in those meetings any longer that has presidential experience.”
Manafort joined Trump in late March, battling with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for power. After Trump’s nomination was assured, on May 19 Trump promoted Manafort to campaign chairman. On June 20, Trump fired Lewandowski.
Manafort advised Trump to eschew appearing on Sunday morning news shows, often appearing on the shows himself.