Donald Trump has cleared his schedule for a few days and is spending his time shaking up his campaign staff and preparing for the race ahead.
One of his first moves was expanding the role of his top political gun, convention manager Paul Manafort.
Manafort is a seasoned operative with names like Ronald Reagan on his resume.
According to Trump, at this stage of the game, Manafort is exactly what Team Trump needs to lead them to victory.
“The nomination process has reached a point that requires someone familiar with the complexities involved in the final stages,” Trump said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I am organizing these responsibilities under someone who has done this job successfully in many campaigns.”
It is not entirely clear what that ultimately means for embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who has already seen his role lessened and his decisions challenged after he was charged with battery for manhandling a reporter.
According to the press release, though, he is not out of a job just yet.
“Working closely with Campaign Manager Corey R. Lewandowski and Deputy Campaign Manager Michael Glassner, Mr. Manafort will direct the campaign’s activities in areas including delegate operations, Washington, DC outreach and the DC office opening next week,” the statement reads.
Behind the scenes, however, Lewandowski seems to be fighting dirty for his own political life and very much aware Manafort is his rival.
“Corey and his people know the knives are out for them,” said one source close to the campaign, referring to Manafort as a “pretty experienced in-fighter.”
On Saturday, Lewandowski went as far as to fire a young operative named James Baker, who’d been recently put in charge of its Colorado campaign—he’d arrived in the state less than 48 hours earlier—because he’d been communicating with Manafort after Lewandowski instructed him not to do so, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed. Lewandowski disputed the reason for Baker’s dismissal.
Staffers have also said Trump is no longer listening to Lewandowski and he is no longer part of Trump’s inner circle.
“I’m not saying Corey’s going to be fired or anything because I don’t think he’s going to be, at least not at this juncture,” a person involved in Trump’s campaign told Politico. “But Mr. Trump’s listening to other people now. The crew’s expanding. The inner circle is not what it used to be.”
Manafort — who at his point of hire technically answered to Lewandowski — also made it clear he has no intentions of answering to the campaign manager in name anymore.
“This is an example of Donald Trump managing, and the type of leadership he will bring to the presidency in November,” Manafort told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, talking about how the shake-up will help lead Trump to victory. “He also understood that winning isn’t enough, that it’s about how you win and how much you win.”
He then added, “I work directly for the boss.”