Mass Defections Expected as Donald Trump’s Campaign Implodes


(Vanity Fair) –  Amid calls from Donald Trump’s allies and advisors to apologize and move on from his self-destructive spat with the parents of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq, people close to the presidential nominee’s campaign are beginning to question whether anyone but Trump is in charge, and Republicans are looking for the exits.

After a week in which Trump insulted everyone from grieving military families to crying babies and suggested that the November election is “going to be rigged,” even the candidate’s own team is reportedly at their wit’s end. Paul Manafort, is “not challenging him anymore” and “mailing it in,” a longtime ally of Trump’s campaign chairman told CNBC’s John Harwood. The campaign staff, this person said, are “suicidal.” The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and S.V. Date report that Manafort is beyond “frustrated,” according to his close friends, as he struggles to manage Trump’s childlike behavior and inability to accept criticism. “The problem is that Trump watches TV every minute that he isn’t actually on his phone, either talking or tweeting,” one advisor said. “And then he gets angry at what he sees on TV and reacts.” (Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller denied Harwood’s account, telling him, “The idea that Paul Manafort’s mailing it in is completely erroneous.”)

While Manafort is not expected to leave the campaign, many Republicans are abandoning Trump, with more apostasy reportedly on the way. The high-profile defections began Tuesday morning, when Rep. Richard Hanna became the first G.O.P. congressperson to say he would vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, calling Trump “unfit to serve.” Later that evening, tech billionaire and Republican fundraiser Meg Whitman, who previously ran for governor of California, told The New York Times that not only would she vote for Clinton, but that she would actively fund-raise on her behalf, tapping her deep Republican donor network to support the Democratic nominee. “Time and again history has shown that when demagogues have gotten power or come close to getting power, it usually does not end well,” Whitman told the Times, arguing that Trump had “undermined the character of the nation” and that his presidency could be a democracy-ending event.

Even Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, is reportedly at a loss for how to handle Trump. NBC News’ Katy Tur reports that the G.O.P. chairman was “apoplectic” after Trump casually declared in a Washington Post interview Tuesday that was not yet endorsing the reelection campaigns of either John McCain or Paul Ryan, both of whom have criticized his repeated attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents of a slain military hero. (“I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets,” said Trump, who received five military deferments from serving in Vietnam, where McCain was a prisoner of war.) Priebus reportedly called Trump’s staff to voice his “extreme displeasure” that he had turned on members of the party that he only recently joined. Sources confirmed to NBC that several high-profile Republicans, already supporting the party’s nominee only at arm’s length, are now considering pulling their endorsements, and to expect announcements in the next few days.

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