Trump campaign's latest chaos: Firing his manager might not stop problems

Paul Manafort to fill in for Lewandowski

Saying "You're fired!" won Donald Trump stardom on reality TV but it's not likely to end the crazy in his embattled presidential campaign.

The presumptive Republican nominee Trump's firing, dismissal, purge, acceptance of resignation, ambiguous goodbye — whatever you want to call it — of his hot-headed, loose-with-his-hands campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Monday is just the latest effort to bring a semblance of order to a chaotic campaign machine.

And it's possibly too late, at that.

Sources told NBC News that Trump recognized that "things were off the rails and he needed to do something pretty dramatic."

"It should give Republicans some comfort that he gets it," a Trump insider told NBC News.

"He knows that it hasn't been working," said a source.

Lewandowski, according to four people with direct knowledge, was let go after preventing the campaign from growing, blocking hires and being at odds with colleagues and the Republican National Committee on core strategy.

Trump had a "direct conversation" with Lewandowski on Monday morning and "completely severed" the professional relationship after it became clear to him that Lewandowski was "a problem," according to an NBC source.

Lewandowski had been tasked with doing GOP outreach, but that mission was failing, and Trump had heard Lewandowski "had no finesse" and "no sense of place," meaning he did not show sufficient respect to GOP officials, office holders or major players who have earned their way into the establishment, according to sources.

Sources said that while Trump recognized Lewandowski's personality and attitude were "perfectly suited for a 17-candidate primary," where he brought a "burn down the house" approach, that was not translating well to the lead-up to the Republican convention.

Insiders said Lewandowski appeared "personally offended" by the involvement and leadership of Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman.

Corey Lewandowski
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The fact that Trump took so long to give the hook to Lewandowski, even after the campaign manager lied about grabbing a reporter after an event and faced possible criminal charges, underscores the candidate's difficulty in taking steps that election experts have argued he should have made months ago.

Although Lewandowski's manhandling of Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields wasn't acceptable, it was not until Monday, with Trump lagging in the polls and facing a possible mutiny within the GOP, that Ivanka Trump, and her two bothers, Donald Jr. and Eric, were able to convince their father that Lewandowski should go, sources said.

One source told NBC News that Ivanka has been particularly unhappy "for months" with Lewandowski.

Lewandowski's fall from grace came after a bitter, protracted internecine battle with Manafort, a battle that diverted attention from Trump's skeletal campaign staff, which instead should have been focused on building out a national operation, and focusing its fire on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The "Game of Thrones"-like atmosphere and lack of discipline in the campaign was summed up in a tweet by Michael Caputo, a Trump senior adviser and director of his New York campaign. Caputo gleefully tweeted "Ding dong the witch is dead," with a photo of two legs clad in ruby red slippers lying dead under a house after Lewandowski got the axe.


Can you imagine a Hillary Clinton adviser tweeting something like that after a colleague was booted?

Trump still just has a relative handful of campaign staff compared to Clinton — he's got just 30 people. He also has gone begging for money despite the real estate's mogul claim of being personally worth $10 billion, and has struggled to stay on message in response to a series of controversies, while wasting valuable time and resources on travel and events to states that likely won't be in contention during this fall's election.

Leading Republicans who have supported Trump — or who are inclined to support him — have said for months they expect him to become more disciplined, stop saying controversial things that dominate days of news cycles, and build out the kind of organization that likely will be necessary to beat Clinton. They're still waiting.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton in polls, and has sky-high unfavorability ratings among the public.

On Saturday, Trump's campaign shot out a fundraising email, saying it has an "emergency goal of $100,000 to help get our ads on the air." The email solicitation came in response to the Clinton campaign airing a general election TV ad.

Trump's request for money came after a reported incident in which he promised Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to make two dozen fundraising calls to top GOP donors only to stop after doing just three.

NBC News last Thursday revealed that Trump's campaign has yet to run an ad in a battleground state. In the meantime, Clinton and outside groups backing her have spent a total of $23.3 million on ads in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Ohio, according to the NBC News report.

Meanwhile, Trump is continuing to deal with the fallout from a series of controversial statements about the Mexican heritage of the judge overseeing the lawsuits related to his Trump University, as well as his comments that the Orlando, Florida, nightclub massacre might have had a different outcome if the patrons of the club were carrying firearms.