NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Republican Donald Trump announced a shakeup of his campaign leadership Wednesday, the latest sign of tumult in his bid for the White House as his poll numbers slip with only 82 days before the election.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, despite reshuffling his campaign staff for a third time in eight weeks, Trump has insisted he is not second-guessing himself.
He debuted the team during a round table at Trump Tower.
The billionaire real estate mogul named Stephen Bannon of the conservative Breitbart News website as chief executive officer and promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, CBS News’ Craig Boswell reported.
“I’ve known both of them for a long time. They’re terrific people, they’re winners, they’re champs, and we need to win it,” Trump told The Associated Press in a phone interview early Wednesday.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s controversial campaign chairman, will retain his title, but it is unclear if his role will change.
Details of the new pecking order were hashed out at a lengthy senior staff meeting at Trump Tower Tuesday while Trump was on the road. A statement announcing the hires was released Wednesday. Additional senior hires are expected soon.
In announcing the changes Wednesday, Trump’s campaign said Bannon “will oversee the campaign staff and operations in addition to strategic oversight of major campaign initiatives” in addition to working with Manafort.
It said Conway will “work on messaging and travel frequently with Mr. Trump, while working closely with Mr. Bannon and Mr. Manafort on all aspects of the campaign moving forward.”
Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who has been traveling often with Trump, is expected to maintain a senior role with the campaign.
In tapping Bannon for a top campaign role, Trump is doubling down on his outsider appeal rather than appeasing more traditional Republicans.
The conservative Breitbart figure has been a cheerleader for Trump’s campaign for months and was critical of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs banker and does not bring presidential campaign experience to Trump’s White House bid.
Conway joined Trump’s campaign earlier this year as a senior adviser. A longtime Republican strategist and pollster, she has close ties to Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
In an email to CBS News, Conway said the moves weren’t a “shakeup” but merely “an expansion of our team at a busy time in the campaign homestretch.”
Earlier in the day Conway spoke about re-shaping the campaign.
“My own view of the pivot is substance, it’s now style,” she said.
Manafort, who took over the reins following the departure of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in June, has come under scrutiny because of his past work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Manafort helped the party secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, doing so in a way that effectively obscured the party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.
Gates, who had worked with Manafort on Ukrainian issues, told the AP he and Manafort had consulted with the lobbying firms on Ukrainian politics, but called the actions lawful.
The campaign shakeup, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as polls show Trump trailing Clinton nationally and in key battleground states following a difficult campaign stretch that saw him insulting the Muslim parents of a soldier who died in Iraq and temporarily refraining from endorsing Ryan in his primary race.
Trump has resisted pressure to change his campaign style.
“You know, I am who I am,” he told a local Wisconsin television station Tuesday. “It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about, ‘Oh, well you’re going to pivot, you’re going to.’ I don’t want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.”
Trump, whose campaign is built on his persona as a winner, said several times Wednesday that the campaign was “doing well,” and said his speech hours earlier in Wisconsin Tuesday was well-received.
“We’re going to be doing something very dramatic,” Trump added.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported news of the campaign changes came hours before Trump was to have his first classified intelligence briefing, and the same week he delivered a major speech outlining his plan to defeat ISIS.
He was joined at the briefing by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Long Island Congressman Peter King.
“The local police feel they’re not getting the information that they need,” Giuliani said.
Top Democrats don’t think Trump can be trusted with sensitive information.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is trying to pivot away from any talk about her emails, but some Republicans on Capitol Hill won’t let the subject be put to rest.
Republicans contend Clinton may have perjured herself during Congressional testimony at the House Benghazi hearings. They’re now comparing notes the FBI handed to Congress Tuesday from its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to see if there are discrepancies.
Clinton would not talk about the news during a campaign event in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but her campaign said it wants the FBI notes made public so Republicans can’t selectively leak incomplete information.
Trump’s campaign announced earlier that it would finally begin airing its first ads of the general election next week in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
While polls have shown Clinton building a lead following last month’s convention, Democrats fear that a depressed voter turnout might diminish support among the minority, young and female voters who powered Obama to two victories.
Clinton said at a voter registration event at a Philadelphia high school that she’s “not taking anybody anywhere for granted” in the race for the White House.
In the Wisconsin outing Tuesday, Trump accused Clinton of “bigotry” and being “against the police,” claiming that she and other Democrats have “betrayed the African American community” and pandered for votes.
Trump charged that Clinton has been on the side of the rioters in Milwaukee, declaring: “Our opponent Hillary would rather protect the offender than the victim.”
“The riots and destruction that have taken place in Milwaukee is an assault on the right of all citizens to live in security and to live in peace,” he said.
The Clinton campaign responded by accusing Trump of being the bigot instead.
“With each passing Trump attack, it becomes clearer that his strategy is just to say about Hillary Clinton what’s true of himself. When people started saying he was temperamentally unfit, he called Hillary the same,” spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement early Wednesday. “When his ties to the Kremlin came under scrutiny, he absurdly claimed that Hillary was the one who was too close to Putin. Now he’s accusing her of bigoted remarks — We think the American people will know which candidate is guilty of the charge.”
In the battleground state of Ohio, Hillary Clinton toured a middle school in Cleveland, touted a new plan for taxes and spoke candidly about Trump’s new campaign lineup.
“They can make him read new words from a teleprompters, but he is still the same man,” Clinton said. “There is no new Donald Trump, this is it.”
Face The Nation Host John Dickerson said Trump should expect to be judged on how he runs his campaign.
“The promise of his campaign is ‘even though I have no experience I’ll come into the presidency and whip it into shape because I have special skills,’ well his campaign is a test of that,” Dickerson said.
She also made a nod towards voter registration.
“I want to register all 18-year-olds automatically,” she said.
Missing from Clinton’s comments on Wednesday was any mention of the email scandal still following her. The FBI has handed notes on its investigation of her private server to Congress.
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