Donald Trump Parts Ways With Top Campaign Operative in Latest Staff Shakeup

The departure of Trump's national political director, Rick Wiley, just six weeks after he was hired signals a growing turf war within the campaign.
May 26, 2016, 4:25pm
Photo by Justin Lane/EPA

Donald Trump's national political director, Rick Wiley, has left the campaign just six weeks after he was hired, signaling another reshuffling for one of the most unconventional presidential campaigns in recent memory.

The Trump campaign released a statement Wednesday night announcing Wiley's departure and explaining that he was merely hired "on a short-term basis as a consultant until the campaign was running full steam." The campaign also thanked him for "helping us through during this transition period."

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But other reports suggested that the breakup wasn't exactly amicable. According to an anonymous source quoted by Reuters, Trump told campaign staffers Wiley "should be fired" for his handling of a fundraising deal with the Republican National Committee that did not include Nevada, a key battleground state for Republicans in the general election.

Trump's spokesperson, Hope Hicks, declined to comment to VICE News on whether Wiley had been fired or resigned.

Wiley's departure reportedly also came after he clashed with another member of the campaign, Karen Giorno, who ran Trump's Florida operation that resulted in a massive victory, according to Politico.

Related: The Magic Number: Trump Now Has Enough Delegates to Clinch the Republican Nomination

Wiley has extensive experience as a Republican political operative. He was formerly the campaign manager for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's failed presidential bid this election cycle, and in 2012 he worked for RNC chairman Reince Priebus and helped with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He was supposed to bring everything to the Trump campaign that it had been lacking: veteran political knowledge, favor with the Republican establishment, and a connection with the RNC.

His departure signals a growing turf war on the Trump campaign between the old guard staffers who have been there since the beginning, and the newer people who have been brought on to "professionalize" the campaign in recent months, the Washington Post's James Hohmann notes. Trump's embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who represents the loyalists, did not get along with Wiley. Paul Manafort, a veteran operative Trump brought on in March, hired Wiley in April to help make the campaign resemble something more like a traditional operation. The move prompted Trump's national field director, Stuart Jolly, a member of the old guard, to quit in protest.

Wiley's departure shows just how much Trump — and no one else — is the center of his own operation. The reality TV star has proven that he can win primary after primary while still rejecting nearly every conventional rule for how to run a national campaign. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Trump has secured enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.

Trump has a tight-knit inner circle of advisors, but at the end of the day he is his own campaign manager, spokesperson, and strategist. While this style may have worked so far, it's a risky tactic for the general election matchup against the political machine that is Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Trump hasn't booted all traditionalists from his campaign. After rejecting the need for pollsters for months, Trump hired veteran Tony Fabrizio earlier this month to help with the general election fight. Manafort also remains in a central role, and was promoted last week to the position of chief strategist.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker