For the past two months, Donald Trump has presided over a political team riddled with turf wars, staff reshuffling and dueling power centers.
But the tensions are more than typical campaign chaos: They illustrate how Trump likes to run an organization, whether it’s a real estate venture or his presidential bid. Interviews with current and former Trump associates reveal an executive who is fond of promoting rivalries among subordinates, wary of delegating major decisions, scornful of convention and fiercely insistent on a culture of loyalty around him.
Whether the drama of recent weeks has been cathartic or calamitous is an open question — and one that is increasingly important as the general election phase of the campaign unfolds. The tumult has often dominated news coverage, stepping on Trump’s own campaign message and averting the spotlight from missteps by leading Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
“It is definitely dysfunctional compared to, say, Ace Hardware Store,” said David Carney, a veteran Republican political strategist. But, he added, “it is not fatal in and of itself.”
Honed over decades in business and now suddenly under the glare of a national contest, Trump’s style offers a glimpse of the polarizing management techniques he would carry into the White House. In fashioning his campaign after his real estate and entertainment projects, the mogul has inspired supporters and alarmed critics with his brazen moves.
“He’s always the man in charge,” said Edward Rollins, the veteran Republican strategist who is working for a pro-Trump super PAC. “From his people, he gets what he needs. He makes them compete. Sometimes it gets the juices flowing, sometimes it spurs conflict. If he needs to, he steps in to settle it.”
Rollins pointed to the relationship between Trump’s 42-year-old campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his 67-year-old campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as a prime example of how Trump handles people. While they have worked just steps from each other in recent weeks at Trump Tower in New York, the pair — contrasts in age, experience and personality — have a simmering rivalry over stature and responsibilities within the candidate’s orbit. And Trump doesn’t seem to mind.