Mar 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump eyes convicts and conspiracists for 2024 reunion

Photo illustration of the faces of Paul Manafort, Christina Bobb, Roger Stone and Laura Loomer.

Paul Manafort, Christina Bobb, Roger Stone, Laura Loomer. Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Yana Paskova, John Lamparski, Gabby Jones/Bloomberg, Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sidelined characters from former President Trump's past campaigns — "crazies," some of his top advisers call them — are reattaching themselves to his inner circle now that he's locked up the Republican nomination.

Why it matters: Trump's 2024 campaign has been notable for its rigor: Top advisers have largely steered clear of the most controversial far-righters who surrounded Trump in the past. But ex-advisers, conspiracy theorists and convicted felons are now knocking on the campaign's door — and some are getting in.

  • They're returning as Trump more aggressively touts Jan. 6 rioters as "patriots," ramps up his racist, incendiary rhetoric — and embraces some of his most provocative loyalists.

Zoom in: In recent weeks, several of these loyalists have moved to rejoin his team or have had a bigger presence at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Trump's team is in talks to hire 2016 campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported.
  • Manafort spent two years in prison on a 7½-year sentence for bank and tax fraud before being freed because of the COVID pandemic.
  • Lewandowski, who was fired in 2016 as Trump's first campaign manager, was removed from a pro-Trump PAC in 2021 after the wife of a major donor accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Longtime political operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone — who was convicted of obstructing a congressional probe into Trump's 2016 campaign and sentenced to 40 months in prison before Trump commuted the sentence — has been a frequent presence at Mar-a-Lago lately.

  • Stone was at Trump's victory party there on Super Tuesday. He also has publicly weighed in on how Trump should pick his V.P nominee.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) just hired Christina Bobb, a far-right lawyer and former One America News (OAN) anchor who helped Trump promote false allegations that the 2020 election had been stolen.

  • The RNC — now controlled by Trump's team — brought on Bobb, who has worked in Trump's 2020 and 2024 campaigns, as senior counsel for "election integrity."

Zoom out: Batting away unsolicited outreach from certain far-righters has been a constant challenge for the Trump campaign's inner circle, which at times has resisted his instincts.

  • Trump wanted to hire far-right activist Laura Loomer, the Times reported. But co-campaign manager Susie Wiles objected, two people familiar with the episode told Axios.
  • David Cornstein, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary during Trump's administration, urged the campaign to hire Arpad Habony, a strategist for Viktor Orbán, Hungary's prime minister, Axios has reported. The campaign hasn't hired Habony.

Flashback: After white nationalist Nick Fuentes dined with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in 2022, senior campaign staff coordinated to try to make sure that someone was always with Trump to screen potentially politically damaging dinner guests, two Trump sources said.

The intrigue: Trump's top campaign advisers have dealt with some far-right personalities by directing them to one of the several Trump-aligned PACs, which operate separately from the campaign, two people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

  • Trump maintains warm relationships with them — and has regular phone calls with some, without always telling his advisers beforehand.

What they're saying: "President Trump has surrounded himself with a bunch of killers who work every day to help him win," Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said.

  • They have "built out the most professional and sophisticated team to implement his game plan flawlessly."
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