Scoop: Kushner changes top Trump campaign staff
Michael Glassner, the man who organizes President Trump's rallies, has been "reassigned," and Trump's 2016 Arizona chair Jeff DeWit will join the campaign as chief operating officer to oversee the final stretch to election day, three sources familiar with the situation tell Axios.
Driving the news: Jared Kushner engineered these moves. Glassner, a Trump campaign original dating back to 2015, has been told he will now be handling the campaign's various lawsuits, sources say.
- DeWit, a Kushner ally, is a businessman and former Arizona state treasurer who served as chief financial officer of NASA under Trump from 2018 until earlier this year.
Between the lines: One person familiar with the shake-up defended Glassner as the unfortunate guy whose head needed to roll for the Tulsa rally debacle, where the attendance was nowhere near what the president had anticipated.
- "Michael didn't really make many mistakes [at Tulsa]," the source said. "He did what he always did, and it just didn't work post-COVID."
- "I think he knew he was going to take the punishment for this," the source added. "It was on his watch."
- But a second person familiar with the decision pushed back, saying it wasn't fair to blame Glassner and that he was ultimately going to be reassigned to a different role regardless of what happened in Tulsa.
- This source said Glassner had been filling the role during the "ramp up stage" of the campaign but "was never intended to be the chief operating officer for the final stretch."
The backstory: Kushner had been talking with DeWit for a couple of weeks about coming into this role, per a source familiar with the discussions. In 2016, Kushner brought in DeWit to help him oversee the campaign's budgeting, finances and contracts.
- In his 2020 role, DeWit will be doing "dynamic budgeting" for the Trump campaign, working with the finance team, reassessing the campaign's spending and keeping an eye on expenses as fundraising builds towards election day, according to that source.
- DeWit will also be heavily involved with the rally operations like he was during the 2016 campaign.
- Stephanie Alexander remains the campaign's chief of staff.
Trump campaign response: After Axios approached the Trump campaign with this reporting, communications director Tim Murtaugh responded in a statement, "This is not a reaction to Tulsa. Michael Glassner is moving into the long-term role of navigating the many legal courses we face, including suits against major media outlets, some of which will likely extend beyond the end of the campaign."
- "He is one of the founding members of Team Trump and his dedication to the success of the President is unmatched."
Behind the scenes: Some in the White House have heaped blame on the Trump campaign for the small turnout in Tulsa, even though the president was adamant about making a large rally happen immediately and earlier than some on his team thought prudent.
- Some of the president's advisers now admit privately that they underestimated how scared their elderly supporters would be to join an indoor, mostly mask-free crowd, without social distancing.
- The Trump campaign has to quickly figure out how to make rallies work in the age of coronavirus.
- The old way of doing rallies was basically telling Glassner to go get it done, but that approach collapsed in Tulsa. A larger team is expected to handle Trump rallies going forward, with myriad additional considerations including legal liability, health guidance and local government regulations.
The big picture: As Axios reported, Trump's advisers are sounding alarms about his re-election prospects to a degree we've not heard since the president entered the White House three and a half years ago.