WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, pushed back against reports of turmoil within the Republican nominee’s campaign on Wednesday, accusing Hillary Clinton’s campaign of spreading a false narrative.
“The candidate is in control of his campaign. That’s number one, and I’m in control of doing the things he wants me to do in the campaign,” Manafort said in an interview on Fox News.
“The turmoil, this is another Clinton narrative that she put out there and that the media is picking up on,” he added, describing the campaign as “in very good shape” after reportedly raising $82 million in July ― its best month yet.
The campaign careened off the rails over the weekend after the Trump picked a fight with the Gold Star parents of a slain Muslim American war hero. Ignoring aides and prominent GOP members, he doubled down by saying he didn’t “regret anything” about critiquing the family.
The real estate mogul didn’t stop there, however, racking up an astonishing number of controversies in the last 48 hours that threatened to disintegrate his already shaky support among elected officials in his party.
Trump refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in their primary campaigns, angering Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who was reportedly so “apoplectic” at the move he called the candidate to urge him to change course. He drew the ire of military veterans at a campaign event in Virginia by telling a Purple Heart recipient that he “always wanted” to get the medal. At the same event, he ordered a crying baby to be carried out of the room. He also said he feared the November election would be “rigged” against him, without providing any evidence ― a dangerous assertion that could delegitimize the outcome.
“Well, I just hear things,” Trump said when asked to provide proof. “And I just feel it and I felt it having to do with the primaries.”
The candidate’s actions seemed to be taking a toll on his campaign staff, who were reportedly “suicidal”:
Manafort denied Harwood’s report, but some of his close friends described him as being “frustrated” by his inability to manage Trump in any sense, according to HuffPost’s Howard Fineman.
As talk of potentially replacing Trump on the ticket percolated among some GOP officials, NBC News reported that top Trump endorsers were considering holding an intervention with the candidate in hopes of righting the ship. Among those involved, per NBC, are Priebus, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
While Manafort dismissed the NBC report during his Wednesday interview, he did not explicitly deny the possibility of an intervention in coming days.
“This is the first I’m hearing of that,” he said. “The only need we have for intervention is maybe for some media types who keep saying things that aren’t true.”
Trump’s inability to stay on message in the last few days even worried Gingrich, a supporter and surrogate who was nearly named Trump’s presidential running mate.
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich told the Washington Post on Wednesday. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”