Allies and aides of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are aggressively pushing back on reports of tension and tumult swirling around his campaign. Multiple members of Trump’s team blamed disgruntled staffers and media bias for the rumors in conversations with Yahoo News on Wednesday.
“It’s all good,” said Bruce LeVell, executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.
LeVell insisted that the reports were an inaccurate reflection of what’s actually happening in the campaign. He pointed to Trump’s success in the Republican primary as evidence of the campaign’s strength.
“We pushed 16 people off that stage, and they weren’t weaklings,” LeVell said. “Don’t underestimate us going into the general with the horsepower that we have. We’re not panicked.”
Recent days have seen Trump endure a steady stream of negative headlines and criticism from fellow Republicans after he pushed back against the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier who spoke out against him at last week’s Democratic National Convention. The firestorm around Trump grew still stronger after he said Tuesday that he was not ready to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain in their respective GOP primaries.
This turmoil has coincided with a shift in the polls showing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton coming from behind to open up a lead against Trump.
Amid this tough stretch for Trump, there have been widespread reports that members of his team are growing frustrated and even despondent about their chance of victory. CNBC’s John Harwood reported that a source described members of Trump’s team as “suicidal.” Harwood’s dramatic claim was backed up by NBC’s Ali Vitali, who said one of her sources told her it’s “way worse than people realize.” According to CNN’s Dana Bash, the angry members of Trump’s team “feel like they are wasting their time” due to his damaging behavior.
And Reuters’ Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland reported that a GOP source said Trump’s family members “were aware that an intervention was needed to get Trump back on track. One idea being floated was to have a senior adviser travel with Trump to help him stay on message.”
Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director and senior adviser, said he has been “with the candidate seven days a week” since the campaign began last June and has not seen any signs of tension.
“I am not sure where the rumors are coming from — as I can tell you we are on the trail now — about to attend a rally … and we will just keep on moving along. Rumors have been out there regarding this campaign for 14 months now. … We will continue to move along and make history,” Scavino wrote in an email to Yahoo News.
However, there are some clear signs of discord in the campaign. One midlevel Trump aide told Yahoo News that veteran staff and volunteers who are familiar with the candidate’s unconventional style were weathering the barrage of bad news better than some of the newer recruits.
“It has weighed on everybody,” the aide said of Trump’s behavior. “We’re just waiting for it to tamp down.”
Another Trump adviser said Trump’s actions have been a disservice to his loyal supporters.
“If he can realize he is letting them down, he may change course a bit,” the adviser said.
A top Republican National Committee official also told Yahoo News the party’s chairman, Reince Priebus, was frustrated with Trump.
Nevertheless, many members of Trump’s inner circle dismissed the reports of internal drama as the result of biased media coverage and comments from disgruntled staffers.
A high-level Trump campaign source, who declined to go on record to defend the campaign, denied there were any “internal politics” at play. As evidence of the campaign’s strength, the source pointed to data released by the Trump’s team on Tuesday showing it has had achieved success with small-dollar donors.
“Campaign is functioning operationally better than it ever has. Lots of money in the bank. Everyone working well together. No internal politics. Getting geared up in all 50 states to give an aggressive push post-Labor Day when people start paying attention,” the source said.
The person also offered a theory about the origins for reports of frustration among Trump’s staff.
“That sentiment is probably coming from someone no longer with campaign or part of the core team,” the source said.
Michael Cohen, an executive vice president and special counsel at Trump’s company, echoed the notion that isolated staffers were behind the reports. He suggested this was part of the standard campaign experience and predicted there are also probably some unhappy people working for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Cohen specifically pointed to the recent revelation that the Obama administration sent $400 million to Iran as four Americans detained there were released, a false claim Clinton made that the FBI director said she was being “truthful” about her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, and leaked emails showing the Democratic National Committee discussed undermining Clinton’s primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Do you think for a second that there aren’t aides or staffers at the Clinton campaign that are frustrated or concerned because of the WikiLeaks emails, the Iranian cash or her pants-on-fire comments about the FBI?” Cohen asked. “A rhetorical question, as we all know the answer is an emphatic yes.”
Trump’s campaign has also begun firing back at the press by claiming the reports of tension are the result of media bias.
“The disgusting and disgraceful liberal media continues to try to create a narrative that is inaccurate and misleading,” Cohen told Yahoo News. “These liberal media people, all of whom are Clinton supporters, should not be permitted by their various outlets to create news as opposed to reporting news.”
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took things a step further in a Fox News interview that aired on Wednesday evening. He suggested that the press is doing Clinton’s bidding by depicting his campaign as in turmoil.
“This is another Clinton narrative that is put out there and the media is picking up on,” Manafort said.
Trump himself attacked the media throughout his Wednesday night speech at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla.
“The press is more dishonest now than I’ve ever seen them,” the candidate said at one point.
Trump’s campaign also sent out an email on Wednesday attacking the New York Times for including “two negative Trump stories and zero negative Clinton stories” on its front pages on Tuesday and Wednesday. The message showed pictures of the paper with a red stamp labeling it a “MEDIA BIAS OFFENDER.” It concluded with a message encouraging supporters to identify other “anti-Trump” media outlets.
“We welcome your suggestions for those deserving increased scrutiny,” the message said.