This feels suspiciously like part of a shake-up, which we were told in the strongest possible terms was the wrong word to use to describe bringing in Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
It must have driven Manafort nuts that, literally the day after Conway (a.k.a. the new Manafort) was brought in, Trump finally shifted to the sort of lower-key, sympathetic, professional tone that Manafort’s been begging him for months to try.
“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.”
– Donald J. Trump
Having presided over Trump’s poll slide and with the candidate apparently uninterested in following his advice, go figure that Manafort wouldn’t want to hang around in a humiliating ceremonial role while Bannon and Conway run things. And go figure that Trump wouldn’t want to absorb any more needless damage from stories like this:
A firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law…
Under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000…
“There is no question that Gates and Manafort should have registered along with the lobbying firms,” said Joseph Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, a Democratic-leaning Washington law firm that advises Republican and Democratic lobbyists.
Gates is still part of Trump’s campaign for the moment but I don’t know why he’d want to stay put with his mentor gone and the Lewandowski/Bannon wing of Trump’s operation seemingly in ascendance. There’s a big world full of well-funded autocrats who need mouthpieces in Washington out there. Says Ben Shapiro, “So, with Manafort gone, who’s the next Russian ambassador to the Trump campaign?”
Manafort was supposedly viewed “with trepidation” by Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, which may have been the writing on the wall. The one power base you don’t cross in Trumpworld is the family. Interestingly, it was allegedly Ivanka and the other Trump children who wanted Corey Lewandowski pushed out as campaign manager, clearing the path for Manafort to take over. Maybe the revelations about Manafort’s work for Putin’s stooge in Ukraine spooked Kushner, even though his relationship with Yanukovych was well-known before he was brought aboard. It’s one thing for daddy Trump to kiss Putin’s ass and kneecap NATO at every opportunity in interviews, but taking a payday from the Kremlin to undermine Ukraine? Bridge too far.
By the way, within the last 20 minutes, this was retweeted by none other than Corey Lewandowski himself:
Lewandowski is winning so much even he may get tired of winning.
— Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) August 19, 2016
Is Trump going to bring Corey back? Hard to believe he might given Ivanka’s antipathy to him, nor is there really any need to since Steve Bannon is now filling the Corey role of encouraging Trump to be Trump. But Trump’s never cared much for campaign logic and he reportedly enjoys pitting deputies in his businesses against each other to see how they react. Nothing would be more fun than a Corey/Bannon/Conway knife-fight for power with Manafort crony Roger Stone off-camera, whispering into Trump’s ear. We all know the new “pivot” isn’t going to last. Might as well ramp up the drama for when Trump inevitably pivots back.
Update: Eliana Johnson of NRO posted this two days ago:
Couple wks ago, Trump aide told me DJT was frustrated w Manafort but wouldn't fire him. Would layer somebody on top of him & see if he quit.
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) August 17, 2016
And here we are.
Update: A thought: Did Manafort time his resignation deliberately to step on Trump’s big “pivot” speech last night? Political media was oohing and ahhing overnight about the new, kinder, gentler Trump. Suddenly, this morning, they’re stuck with this new headline from Manafort. That’s conspicuously bad timing.