Trump, Trailing in Race, Fires His Campaign Manager

July 16, 2020by Noah Bierman and Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Brad Parscale speaks on stage during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 28, 2020, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, falling further behind Joe Biden in polls as he struggles to contain the growing coronavirus pandemic and recession, shook up his campaign staff Wednesday night, replacing his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, with another longtime aide.

Trump made the announcement on Facebook, promoting deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien, a former White House political director and veteran of the 2016 campaign, to replace Parscale. Parscale will remain in the campaign, resuming his 2016 role running digital operations.

Stepien had effectively taken over operations in recent weeks, advisers have said, as Parscale lost the trust of Trump and his inner circle. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, remains the guiding force in all strategy decisions.

Advisers have been trying to get Trump to focus more on the economy and project a sense of control. But in recent weeks, he has appeared frustrated, giving disjointed speeches in the Rose Garden and making grand gestures that have backfired, including a photo op at a historic church near the White House after protesters were forcibly removed from the area and commuting the sentence of Roger Stone, a longtime political confidante who was convicted of lying to Congress.

Those around Trump have said his inability to hold large campaign rallies during the pandemic has taken away one of his chief sources of comfort, contributing to his sour mood. The campaign has also had trouble tarring Biden’s image as they did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton.

It’s unclear whether a staff change will affect any of those underlying issues, given that the pandemic shows no signs of abating and Trump has resisted counsel from advisers since he entered politics.

“Right now, it wouldn’t matter if we had Jesus running the campaign,” said one person involved in Trump’s reelection, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He’s been really unfocused. But I think he’s getting more focused. I think this is the candidate waking up.”

As recently as last week, campaign officials pushed back on reporting by the Los Angeles Times and others that Parscale’s role had been reduced and that Kushner, Stepien and Jason Miller, a 2016 communications aide, were asserting more control over operations.

For weeks now, Trump’s relationship with Parscale, who was hired as campaign manager in 2018, had deteriorated. The president, according to multiple sources, grew frustrated with Parscale, who was often the bearer of bad news when meeting with the president to discuss polling done by the campaign that showed Trump’s support eroding in key states.

Trump was also perturbed with suggestions from several people, including his own advisers, that Parscale was getting rich off the campaign, multiple people involved in the reelection effort said.

Trump opted not to make an immediate change in Parscale’s role following last month’s disappointing rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Parscale had hyped projections for the rally in advance, only to see a much smaller than anticipated crowd, which infuriated the president.

But Trump had continued to ask friends and advisers inside and outside the White House about how they viewed Parscale and others running his campaign, according to one person in contact with Trump over the last few days, giving them the sense he was mulling a shake-up.

Four years ago, Trump changed the leadership of his campaign twice on his unlikely journey to the GOP nomination and ultimately the presidency. This, the first shake-up of what was designed as a juggernaut campaign befitting a president with strong support from his party, comes less than four months from Election Day.

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©2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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