Joining The Crowd, A Trump Adviser Becomes A Former Adviser
In the last few months, the veteran Republican operative Barry Bennett did lots of interviews in his role as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. But Bennett, who earlier served as Ben Carson’s campaign manager, stressed that his role with TrumpWorld was not a key position and was not strictly defined.
“It’s all informal,” Bennett told CBS News back in January, when he joined Trump. “I’ve been talking to them about some of the things that they need to do, some of the new problems that will be coming their way …”
Bennett ended up doing a lot of TV appearances in which he was identified as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. And then, in the last few days, Bennett has been identified as a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Quickly and quietly, Bennett became “former.”
He’s not alone. Even as it tries to build up, the Trump campaign has been hemorrhaging staff in recent days. Republicans Kevin Kellems, Erica Freeman, Vincent Harris, and now Bennett have all left recently — Harris after two days on the job and Kellems after a little less than three weeks. And that is on top of Trump’s firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Earlier, Rick Wiley, a former top Republican National Committee official and Scott Walker campaign chief, also left Trump after a brief tenure.
In a phone conversation, Bennett stressed that his departure was a “mutual” decision and that he still strongly supports Trump. Bennett also said he never signed a contract with Trump, never accepted pay, and worked mostly away from the campaign’s Washington-area offices. So there weren’t many ties to cut. But now, Bennett said, he is a former adviser and is free to do and say what he wants.
Bennett’s individual circumstances aside, the number of departures, some of them after very short times on the job, are a pretty clear red flag about the Trump organization. When a staffer of Kellems’ experience resigns in an open note to staff — “To whom it may concern: I hereby resign my appointment as Director of Surrogates for Mr. Trump,” Kellems wrote — strange things are happening. Something is wrong in TrumpWorld.
Among GOP politicos not associated with the campaign, there’s a commonly-accepted explanation: As an organization, TrumpWorld is a mess. “Total dysfunction, zero plan, bifurcated leadership, and a principal who is so unwilling to be staffed it makes it impossible to have any self respect, pride in your work or sense of accomplishment,” one veteran of many Republican campaigns told me.
The strategist blamed Lewandowski — actually, not the former campaign manager himself but the conditions that allowed him to prosper for so long. “No one experienced, professional, or qualified could work in a place where a ‘Corey type’ could thrive and be successful for a year,” the politico wrote. “It’s not rational. No one would hire Corey for field job on a congressional campaign in New Hampshire. This proves staff are hired to check boxes and appease the media that they’re ‘professionalizing’ the campaign.”
So far, the media haven’t been appeased; just Google “Trump campaign” and “dysfunctional.” Trump’s strongest supporters will dismiss the talk. And indeed, the Trump campaign has made some top-notch additions lately, like the pollster Kellyanne Conway. But the string of departures in the heat of a general election campaign is a sure sign of trouble — trouble that’s here now and trouble to come.