As Hillary Clinton took the stage Wednesday in Cleveland at John Marshall High School, her campaign manager, Robby Mook, was on the phone to field questions from reporters after delivering a blistering assessment of Donald Trump’s new team of advisers.
When he made brief remarks to the Ohio delegation in Philadelphia for the DNC nominating convention in late July, Mook recounted his deep roots in Ohio vis a vis his parents and grandparents, who were born in Ohio. One relative, a Republican uncle, ran for political office and lost. Mook said with a big grin, pounding the podium, “Let’s continue the tradition.”
His mission today, though, was to weigh-in on the new team of advisers working with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, following a shakeup that downsized Paul Manafort from king of the hill status to just chief strategist. The Donald’s new team includes Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and a former investment banker, now the chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster, as campaign manager. Roger Ailes, the recently ousted head of Fox News, is said to be advising Trump as he prepares for the presidential debates, CNN reported.
Another top adviser to Mr. Trump, Rudy Giuliani said in published reports that the Trump campaign staff shakeup is about ensuring good management for a campaign that is getting “bigger and bigger and bigger.” The AP reported a phone interview that Trump has known Bannon and Conway for a long time. “They’re terrific people, they’re winners, they’re champs, and we need to win it.”
Other reasons for the shake up, outside internal frictions, are new polls showing Hillary Clinton lengthening her lead in some key battleground states, including Ohio, the pick of the litter.
In the call today, Mook said Trump has “small, nasty and divisive instincts. “We need to start believing him,” Mook said of the “fight to let Trump be Trump.”
In an exchange with WKBT-TV in Wisconsin, where Trump was yesterday, he said, “I am who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change.”
On Steve Bannon, Mook said Breitbart embraces racist ideas and defends white supremacists and has compared Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. Breitbart, he said, traffics in “deranged conspiracy theories” including President Obama not being an American or being the founder of ISIS, as Trump declared he was last week.
Mook repeated his favorite words describing Mr. Trump: divisive, erratic and dangerous. Trump’s rhetoric represents who he really is, Mook told reporters. What scares voters most about Donald Trump, he said, is that the Donald has no plans for jobs or making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Making her fifth trip back to the Buckeye State today following her acceptance speech in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton drilled down on the issue of tax fairness. Her focus in Cleveland was the cost of Trump’s proposals to give trillions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy people like himself and his family, Wall Street and big corporations.
Mook was otherwise calm, saying “we absolutely expect with this change [Trump] will double down on hateful divisive rhetoric.” Meanwhile, Mook was upbeat on his boss still standing after receiving daily poundings from Breitbart and other right-wing media outlets, including Fox News. He said voters will make their choice based on what each candidate is going to do create more jobs and make their lives better, a focus for the campaign going forward.
And her talk at John Marshall High School did just that, as it took a side trip through the tax code to explain why Trump will benefit and most others will not. If Donald Trump is worth what he says he is, Clinton said wryly, noting Trump has refused to release his tax returns as she did again last week, the Trump family could reap a $4 billion tax break. If spent in other more productive ways, $4 billion in new investments in Ohio could pay for hundreds of new schools or eliminating the student loan debt of more than 150,000 Ohioans.
Calling the giveaway to the very wealthy the “Trump Loophole,” Mrs. Clinton provided a snapshot of what else that money could be spent on: Enrolling 890,000 four-year olds, who currently lack access, in publicly funded Pre-K; Providing a year’s worth of health care for 360,000 veterans; Providing free community college to 1.1 million students; or, Expanding broadband to every home that lacks access.
Getting to where he’s gotten by bashing establishment Republicans, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Mook said Trump’s new team will enable him to say whatever is on his mind at the time. If that’s their prerogative, so be it, he suggested, returning to his point that voters will decide which candidate will bring them a brighter future. “It’s up to Republicans to decide what they want to do,” Mook said.
Over the past several weeks, Mook said Mrs. Clinton has received growing support from Republicans who cannot bring themselves to vote for Trmp, in part because a man like Paul Manafort, who has come under intense scrutiny of late over payments he’s received from Kremlin-backed groups in the Ukraine, works for him. Voters need to pay attention to that, Mook said.
Indirectly tapping into the second biggest race this year in Ohio, Mook said that as a matter of principle anyone not pushing back on Trump’s divisive rhetoric should be held responsible. He didn’t mention the senate race between Rob Portman and Ted Strickland, but that’s been a bone of contention in the campaign. Sen. Portman has endorsed Trump for president, yet refuses to be seen with him. Until yesterday, there was doubt whether Portman trusted Trump with nuclear weapon codes, but that seems to be resolved now. Portman has said he does trust Trump with them.
With the news Wednesday that the FBI will release information on Secretary of State Clinton’s emails to congress, Mook said he won’t be surprised if congressional Republicans leak the information even though the FBI said advised against doing that. He said it’s a familiar pattern for Republicans to selectively leak confidential information to misled voters.
“I’m not surprised if that happens again,” he said, because the GOP wants to keep the issue alive because it re-litigates what career professionals have made a clear decision on.
Earlier in the day, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon called the FBI’s move to give its notes to Congress “an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI.” A Republican-led House oversight panel is reviewing the documents that have been classified as secret.
If leaks do occur, Fallon said the campaign’s point of view is to release the information as widely as possible so everyone can make their own judgments instead of being relegated to how partisans views of it.
“We don’t have this info so we can’t release it,” Mook said. “Yes, if there’s interest in releasing it, with proper redactions, it should be released by the Department of Justice.”