Shortly after the Trump campaign announced the installation of two new staffers in its highest positions on Wednesday, surrogates fanned out to vigorously argue that the hires did not represent a “shakeup” of the campaign. Spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, for instance, told CNN “No one’s out. When you shake up your campaign, that usually means someone is out.”
Two days later, the campaign announced chairman Paul Manafort had resigned. “I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process,” Donald Trump said in an emailed statement. “Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”
Despite the campaign’s insistence Wednesday that Manafort would remain as campaign chairman and chief strategist, the responsibilities he had with the campaign were largely subsumed by executive chairman of Breitbart.com Steve Bannon, who became the campaign’s CEO, and veteran Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s new campaign manager.
Manafort’s departure comes two months after former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, with whom Manafort reportedly clashed, was fired. Manafort was said to have been intricately involved in Lewandowski’s ouster.
It also occurs less than one week after the New York Times published a story about a recently unearthed ledger that seemed to indicate Manafort was paid in excess of $12 million dollars by President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally who was driven from office by a 2014 coup. Manafort began lobbying for Yanukovych in 2007.
When Manafort joined the Trump campaign at the tail-end of the primary season, he was tasked with ensuring delegates Trump won in state primaries were not tempted to defect to another candidate on the convention floor. He was successful at quashing, in early committee meetings, an attempt to change convention rules to allow delegates to vote according to their consciences.
Manafort is also credited with helping to ensure the Republican party platform soften its language on Ukraine. When a member of the platform committee offered an amendment calling for increased sanctions on Russia and increased aid for Ukraine in response to Russian aggression in the region, Trump staffers in the room watered the language down, removing promises of help in the form of “lethal defensive weapons,” among other things.