Should this claim be dismissed on grounds that only a chump would believe anything the Times writes about Trump, especially in light of that much-criticized piece about his relationships with women a few weeks ago? (Trump responded to a request for comment by the authors of today’s article with “You two wouldn’t know how to write a good story about me if you tried — dream on.”) Or should it be accepted on grounds that the Clintons are, after all, famously sleazy and there’s no telling what dirty tricks they’re capable of?
Actually, if there’s bugging going on, it’s clear from the context — Trump staffers at each other’s throats, Trump’s habit of playing employees off each other — that the Times doesn’t think an outsider’s to blame.
A constant stream of changes and scuffles are roiling Donald J. Trump’s campaign team, including the abrupt dismissal this week of his national political director.
A sense of paranoia is growing among his campaign staff members, including some who have told associates they believe that their Trump Tower offices may be bugged…
The combat within the Trump campaign has undermined the daily messages the team seeks to promote. On Wednesday, for instance, Mr. Trump met with dozens of female C.E.O.s and entrepreneurs before his afternoon rally in California, a meeting that was never publicized. Instead, the campaign sent out a message announcing Mr. Wiley’s dismissal.
The shake-up also hindered the campaign from pouncing on the tough day his likely Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, was having, on the heels of a State Department inspector general’s report on her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
So there’s yet another point of similarity between Perot ’92 and Trump ’16. Assuming it’s true, it makes for a fun whodunnit given the cast of characters. Who’s behind the bugging? Is it Hillary, taking her Nixonian tendencies to their logical conclusion? Is it Trump himself, desperate to ferret out leakers within a campaign that’s divided between two rival camps? Is it Paul Manafort and/or Corey Lewandowski, the leaders of those camps? Is it Reince Priebus, trying to stay ahead of the curve on whatever the hell Trump’s planning to go out and say today? Is it legendary dirty trickster (and Manafort crony) Roger Stone? Is it Obama? Is it the Trump worshippers at Fox News, mainlining sweet, sweet Trump info round-the-clock via their own hidden pipeline to Trump Tower?
Or … is it just old-fashioned paranoia spurred by the Manafort and Lewandowski tensions and the mysterious firing of Rick Wiley? If it is, it’s understandable. This Politico piece from a few days ago makes it sound like Trump’s inner circle is now a Spy vs. Spy cartoon, with Manafort’s allies leaking dirt on Lewandowski to the tabloids and Lewandowski’s allies urging Trump to investigate Manafort’s personal and professional history. Sample quote: “Manafort tried to take out Corey, but he didn’t succeed. And now, everywhere Corey looks, he sees a threat, so he’s trying to neutralize those threats.” Hard to believe Trump’s going to be able to keep both of them in place until November, which explains why loyalists on either side might be looking over their shoulders right now. If only one man and his team will be left in the end, the other side has every incentive to blow up their enemy ASAP.
Although maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe Trump will soldier on with Manafort and Lewandowski exchanging gunfire behind him for the next five and a half months. The nice thing about having won the primaries unconventionally is that it can be used to justify any unconventional campaign behavior going forward. Having the two campaign managers trying to wreck each other would be pure poison for a conventional campaign; for Trump 2016, maybe it’s just healthy competition that keeps everyone on their toes. Failing to build any sort of national ground game would be fatal to a traditional candidate, but Trump’s going to make it all up and then some with a media offensive like America’s never seen. Being widely disliked and viewed as a mercurial agent of discord and destabilization would sink any other would-be president, especially opposite a blandly predictable character like Hillary, but Trumpmania’s broken through at a moment when Americans are seemingly open to anything in the name of “change,” up to and including “The Purge.” Here’s a nice quote (from another NYT story) that’s making the rounds today:
Say what you want about the Nazis, bro, they were never boring. Elsewhere in today’s piece, Trump is cited as having allegedly told staffers he intends to compete in New York this fall and might even hire an extra pollster to target the state. For a conventional Republican pol, wanting to spread thin an already stretched national organization to try to win NY would be grounds to suspect a head injury. For Trump, who got half the votes Hillary Clinton did in New York despite her primary being much more competitive, it’ll be the ultimate proof that he’s expanding the map. Maybe that’s why someone’s bugging his office, in fact. They can’t quite believe he’s actually going to contest New York and they’re trying to confirm it.
Speaking of Fox mainlining Trump info, here they are passing the needle to viewers with a North-Korea-style intro to Greta’s special last night.
Seriously, what the hell is this? pic.twitter.com/g4ebWr6ZVl
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) May 26, 2016