PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign chief acknowledged Thursday the GOP presidential nominee’s team is divided over whether to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, but promised Trump would work with the Republican speaker if elected.
“There’s a conflict within the Trump campaign,” campaign chairman Paul Manafort told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” `’We’ve sort of had a rule of not getting involved in primaries because it’s usually not a good situation for the presidential candidate. Of course, he’s going to work with Paul Ryan.” Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence split with Trump and endorsed Ryan on Wednesday.
Trump’s operation has been beset by internal discord in recent days, including growing concern about general election preparedness and a lack of support from Republican leaders, according to two people familiar with the organization’s inner workings.
One of the people said Trump privately blames his own staff for failing to quiet the backlash from his own party after he criticized an American Muslim family whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq.
The tensions come as GOP Chairman Reince Priebus and a handful of high-profile Trump allies consider whether to confront the candidate directly to encourage a new approach following a series of startling stances and statements. In the midst of the uproar over his criticism of the Khan family, Trump infuriated Priebus and other party leaders by refusing to endorse Ryan’s re-election ahead of a primary contest Tuesday.
The officials, including one with direct knowledge of Priebus’ thinking, were granted anonymity to discuss internal strategy because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive issue during one of the most tumultuous weeks of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Ryan, addressing the issue for the first time this week, said it was “distressing” that Trump isn’t more focused on Democrat Hillary Clinton “and all of her deficiencies.”
But the speaker also reiterated his support for Trump: “None of these things are ever blank checks — that goes with any situation in any kind of race. But right now I just think it’s important that the voters, you know, he won the delegates he won the thing fair and square.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday dismissed reports that he was planning an “intervention” with Priebus and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to urge Trump to abandon divisive tactics that have triggered sinking poll numbers and low morale.
“I meet with Donald Trump all the time,” Giuliani told the Fox Business Network, suggesting that Gingrich used the word, “intervention,” in a recent memo.
“He is a new candidate,” Giuliani said of Trump. “That adds a little bit of — more of a learning curve, that would normally be the case.”
Trump on Wednesday dismissed suggestions that the GOP frustration was hurting his campaign, even as he openly contemplated an Election Day loss.
“Wouldn’t that be embarrassing to lose to crooked Hillary Clinton? That would be terrible,” he said during a campaign stop in battleground Florida. He also insisted, “We’ve never been this united.”
In an interview later with Florida’s WPEC-TV, Trump was asked if he was being “baited into battles.”
“I think that’s probably right,” he acknowledged. “We’re going to focus more on Hillary Clinton.”
The most powerful Republicans in Washington and New York’s Trump Tower concede things will not change unless Trump wants them to.
“The candidate is in control of his campaign,” Manafort told Fox News Channel on Wednesday, highlighting his inability to control the nominee. “And I’m in control of doing the things that he wants me to do in the campaign.”
Clinton, meanwhile, kept up her assault on Trump’s business practices, holding up a Trump-branded tie as she spoke at the Knotty Tie Company in battleground Colorado.
“I really would like him to explain why he paid Chinese workers to make Trump ties,” she told employees in Denver, “instead of deciding to make those ties right here in Colorado.”
Trump blamed the media — “so dishonest” — for growing criticism of his recent statements and his unwillingness to accept guidance from senior advisers.
Privately, however, Trump has concerns about his own team.
He was deeply upset when GOP leaders “took the other side” during his quarrel with the Khans, one person said, and blames his staff for not keeping top Republicans in line. Another person said Trump is irritated that planning in battleground states isn’t further along with less than 100 days until Election Day.
Trump stunned Republicans by telling The Washington Post this week that he wasn’t ready to endorse Ryan, ahead of his primary. Ryan has backed Trump despite deep differences on policy and temperament, and has encouraged other Republicans to unite behind the party’s nominee.
Trump on Wednesday reported raising $80 million in July for his campaign and the Republican Party, a significant improvement from past months. Clinton raised about $90 million over the same period.
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Peoples reported from Washington. AP writers Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz in Washington and Jill Colvin in New Jersey contributed to this report. Follow Steve Peoples and Jonathan Lemire on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/sppeoples and http://twitter.com/JonLemire
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