Who Donald Trump listens to


Donald Trump is his own counsel, but some people have his ear more than others — at least some of the time. 

Here are five people who carry enough weight with the businessman to potentially influence the direction of his unconventional campaign for the presidency.

Paul Manafort

The veteran GOP strategist and global affairs operative joined the Trump campaign in late March to play the role of delegate-wrangler at a time when it looked like Republicans were headed for a contested convention.

In the months since then, Manafort has been elevated first to convention manager, and more recently to chairman of the campaign.

That last move essentially put him above long-time campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Manafort and Lewandowski have struggled against one another to achieve their competing visions for Trump’s campaign.

“Trump likes the creativity that comes out of that tension,” said one Trump staffer who requested anonymity. “He likes to see whose ideas bubble to the surface and ultimately win out.”

Despite Manafort’s fast rise within the campaign, Trump has occasionally put him in his place.

Trump notably rejected Manafort’s characterization that he’s “projecting an image” and merely playing a “part” after the aide described him that way behind closed doors to members of the Republican National Committee at the party’s spring meeting.
That tension played out again last month when Manafort brought in Rick Wiley, who has close ties to the Republican National Committee (RNC), to act as national political director and give the campaign some establishment muscle.
Trump never listened to Wiley and never trusted him, a well-placed source said. 

He instructed Manafort to fire Wiley after only six weeks of work, even though Wiley was acting as a key liaison to the RNC at a time when Trump was engaged in outreach to GOP leaders in Washington.

Still, as much as anyone, Manafort has quickly become a close confidante to Trump and emerged as a key behind-the-scenes architect of the campaign.

Roger Stone

Trump has had a combustible relationship with Stone, the renegade GOP operative who was once partner at a Washington lobbying firm with Manafort.

Trump called Stone a “stone-cold loser” and described him as always trying to take credit for things he didn’t do in a 2008 profile in The New Yorker.

But Stone acted as an adviser to the Trump campaign early in 2015, before leaving under odd circumstances. 

Stone later said he planned to launch a pro-Trump super-PAC. At the time, Lewandowski described that effort to The Hill as a “big league scam” designed to profit off Trump’s name.

But Trump and Stone appear to have patched things up and are said to speak regularly, even if Trump will never publicly acknowledge the relationship. 

Stone is believed to have been instrumental in recruiting Manafort for the campaign, and is as colorful a political figure as they come. He worked for the Nixon campaign and has a tattoo of the former president on his back. 

In the same New Yorker profile, Stone flaunted his decadent lifestyle, posing shirtless and claiming to have provided information to the FBI that led to former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s demise.

Like Manafort, Stone is said to be enemies with Lewandowski.

“Trump and Stone are tight,” said one Trump ally. “He’s the hatchet guy and Lewandowski’s worst nightmare.”

Jeff Sessions

The Alabama senator is Trump’s point man on Capitol Hill.

Sessions was one of the first to get on board with Trump at a time when that was a controversial thing to do, appearing at a Trump rally and donning a “Make America Great Again” hat at a rally in Mobile, Ala., last August.

Trump has credited Sessions, one of the premier border hawks in Congress, with inspiring his immigration position. 

Sessions has also acted as a surrogate for Trump, heads up Trump’s national security working group, and is engaged in outreach to other GOP lawmakers on Trump’s behalf.

Trump also dipped into Sessions’s Senate staff, hiring spokesman Stephen Miller.

The likely GOP nominee speaks reverently of Sessions and has been happy to stoke speculation that the senator could be his vice presidential pick.


Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

When asked who Trump listens to, the billionaire’s biographer Michael D’Antonio paused a moment. 

“I don’t think he takes very many people seriously,” he finally said, before adding, “I think that he would listen to the children to a point … especially Ivanka.” 

Trump has an especially close bond with his daughter and has entrusted her, along with his sons, to take key roles within the Trump business empire. 

But Ivanka has shown entrepreneurial skills of her own, and Trump appears to favor her input above all others. She’s become a key surrogate on his campaign and important in fending off accusations that Trump is sexist.

Trump is also known to lean on and hand over surprising amounts of political responsibility to Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, a young New York real estate investor and owner of the New York Observer newspaper.

Trump’s son-in-law has taken a particular interest in foreign policy and has helped the candidate develop remarks about Israel and Middle East policy in particular, sources say.

Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore

Trump asked Kudlow of CNBC and Moore of the Heritage Foundation to be economic advisers to the campaign, and for the past few weeks the two high-profile figures in conservative economic circles have been providing advice on taxes, spending, trade and energy policy.

They’re not working from any Trump office, however. Moore told The Hill he does most of his policy thinking in airplane seats. He also rejects the suggestion that Trump is immune to outsidecounsel. 

“I think he seems very open-minded to taking advice so we are trying to steer him in the most economically growth-oriented direction,” Moore said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. 

Moore downplayed his influence over Trump, but said he thinks he and Kudlow are having some effect on the candidate’s thinking. Moore said he was gratified when Trump used his work in his May 26 speech laying out his energy policies, titled “An America First Energy Plan.”

“I was kind of flattered when he gave the energy speech,” Moore said. “I didn’t write the speech but I got some of the key talking points to the people that did, and some of that stuff did find its way into the speech.”

Moore said he had provided the research that led to Trump saying that the U.S. was sitting on an estimated $50 trillion in untapped oil and gas reserves on federal lands.

Others in Trump’s orbit

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been a visible surrogate and high-profile ally.

Trump also has a special relationship with former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, who has freely criticized Trump to the press when he feels like the presumptive nominee has made a misstep.

Trump has brought a couple of former Carson allies into the campaign fold, such as Carson’s former campaign manager Barry Bennett and former Carson strategist Ed Brookover.

Trump is believed to be growing close to Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who will host a fundraiser for him next week. 

And there are two seasoned politicos that don’t get a lot of attention but who are highly respected by Trump, sources say. 

The first is Don Benton, the Washington state chair of Trump’s campaign, who is known within senior Trump circles to have the candidate’s ear to an unusual degree. 

The other is Michael McDonald, chairman of the Nevada GOP and someone who is known to have developed a personal bond with the businessman. 

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Sessions

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