Trump Campaign Is Family Affair

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When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s family gathered Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day, three of his adult children brought more than cards. They pressed their father to dump one of his top aides as part of a reboot for the general election.

On Monday, the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., personally carried out the firing of longtime campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, demonstrating the outsize influence wielded by Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, who also are senior executives of the Trump real-estate operations.

The move by the Trump siblings was met with relief by many nervous Republicans, who were seeking a significant change in the campaign. At the same time, the fact that the initiative fell to the children, who readily admit their experience is in business not politics, is being seen by some Republicans as a further sign that Mr. Trump hasn’t brought in enough political professionals to handle the pressures and demands of a general-election effort that in many ways is still being run as a family enterprise.

“In business and politics, we obviously influence our father’s thought process, but he always makes up his own mind,” said Donald Trump Jr. in an interview. “Ivanka, Eric and I have the ability to be very candid with our father.”

The trio complained to their father that Mr. Lewandowski was such a “control freak” that he couldn’t adapt to a new arrangement in which other managers, such as campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, would have power over key functions such as adding new staff. In addition, they observed firsthand the manager’s hot temper.

Mr. Lewandowski said in broadcast and cable interviews Monday he had no regrets on how he ran the campaign. He said he preferred a “small and nimble” operation, and had a “great relationship” with the Trump adult children.

Typically, one, if not more of the adult children, have traveled on the campaign plane with their father, sitting with him at his conference table while Mr. Lewandowski and the few other traveling staff sat at another conference table.

They work on the 25th floor, one floor below his office in Trump Tower, and pop up to chat with him on business or the campaign frequently. Campaign staffers, on the other hand, are on the fifth floor and occasionally must wait to get time with him.

It isn’t unusual for a candidate’s children to be deeply enmeshed in a presidential campaign; Chelsea Clinton, daughter of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, also is heavily involved, as were Mitt Romney’s sons when he ran as the 2012 Republican nominee. The difference in this case is that there are fewer layers of political professionals involved alongside.

At the Father’s Day gathering at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., those three, as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, discussed the “cumulative evidence” of Mr. Lewandowski’s missteps since the primary season ended, from fighting with Mr. Manafort to offering bad policy advice, said a person familiar with the discussion. The siblings framed the conversation in business terms and reinforced a conclusion Mr. Trump had been moving toward since hiring Mr. Manafort months earlier. What’s happening in your campaign is not how we run a business, one of them said. They cited Mr. Lewandowski’s failure to hire talent and scale the operation.

Others have begun to adapt to the influence the Trump siblings wield. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus began calling Mr. Trump’s elder children or Mr. Kushner when he needed to get direct answers or access to the party’s presumptive nominee. Mr. Priebus “is in consistent contact with the children and Jared as much as he is with Mr. Trump,” said Sean Spicer, the RNC communications director.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, many of whom have met with Donald Trump Jr., check in with him on the latest developments. Also, former GOP candidates contact the adult children, rather than the campaign, because they are regarded as honest brokers with Mr. Trump. All three are scheduled to deliver major remarks at the RNC convention in Cleveland in July.

The three adult Trump children, who had been working in the business for years, stepped in to run his real-estate empire while their father launched his campaign a year ago. But since then, they have gradually assumed greater responsibility for the campaign’s workings.

For at least the last two months, the three have attended weekly campaign meetings and offered pointed input, as well as holding their own gatherings about other decisions, attendees said. The sons, frequent guests on TV and radio shows, went hunting with Iowa politicians and hung out in New Hampshire coffee shops.

Ms. Trump made a series of get-out-the-vote videos and, just a few days after the birth of her third child and Mr. Trump’s loss in the Wisconsin primary, kicked off his New York primary campaign, which he won and followed with more victories. Eric Trump personally called every delegate in Pennsylvania, a key state to lock up the nomination; on Monday night, he had dinner with several religious leaders who were to meet with Mr. Trump the next day.

Mr. Kushner, a wealthy real-estate businessman himself, also has become a confidant to his father-in-law. He initially set up the campaign’s digital operation and has since established the Washington office, a growing policy shop and the speechwriting team—areas where other Republicans saw the campaign as sorely deficient.

The three are children from the first of Mr. Trump’s three marriages, to Ivana Trump. His daughter with ex-wife Marla Maples, Tiffany, 22, just graduated from college. Barron, his son with his current wife, Melania Trump, is 10 years old.

The prominent campaign role of Mr. Trump’s three older children, all in their 30s with their own celebrity and business track records inside Trump Organization and independently, isn’t surprising to insiders. Mr. Trump has incorporated his eldest two sons and older daughter in all his business ventures, from making real-estate deals to appearing on the reality-TV show “The Apprentice.”

“Not only are we his family, we also happen to be the people who have sat across the boardroom table from him for over a decade,” Eric Trump said. “Very few people can replicate that level of trust.”

On weekends, the family often gets together, especially Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, who have a cottage next to Mr. Trump’s cottage at the Bedminster Golf Club, where the candidate relaxes and plays golf on Sundays when possible.

Even as Mr. Trump has listened to his three adult children more on campaign matters, their forceful position on Mr. Lewandowski was the toughest to take. Their father told them his campaign manager had changed in recent months since Mr. Manafort usurped much of his responsibility. Yet he remained close to Mr. Lewandowski.Following the firing, Mr. Trump showed some discomfort in the minutes immediately afterward. “It’s never easy,” he said in an interview. “But it’s a decision I had to make.” At that moment, Donald Trump Jr. remained with Mr. Lewandowski until a security guard escorted him out of the Manhattan high rise. Ms. Trump, Mr. Kushner and Eric Trump joined Mr. Trump in his office.

(via: Wall Street Journal)

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