Trump campaign gains complicated by internal struggles

Trump campaign gains complicated by internal struggles
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE's campaign is struggling to shake its internal problems despite attempts to increase and professionalize staff.

Even as the presumptive GOP nominee continues to add new staff in the wake of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s high-profile firing, one of those new hires fled the campaign just weeks after joining reportedly citing campaign dysfunction. 

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That surprising departure underscores the issues the Trump campaign faces as he continues to risk being outgunned by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE, who has 10 times the staff than his operation. 

“It seems like even when he tries to take two steps forward, he then immediately takes three steps back,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said.

“They are making some progress here and there, but it’s nowhere near enough and it’s not being done fast enough,” he added.

Trump has raced to show his campaign’s strength after firing Lewandowski and reported a paltry $1.3 million in the bank through May on the same day last month. 

Firing Lewandowski, who had no previous campaign experience, and putting campaign veteran Paul Manafort in charge was meant to quell unrest within Trump's campaign and concerns from Trump's own family and the Republican Party.

Since the transition, there has been a steady diet of rapid-response emails, statements, fundraising emails and staff announcements from a Trump campaign that had previously avoided the daily press release.

Just one day after Lewandowski’s departure, Trump announced a series of hires on June 21 including former presidential campaign adviser Jim Murphy and George W. Bush administration staffer Kevin Kellems, hired to lead Trump's surrogate division. 

But Kellems resigned after less than two weeks, noting in his resignation letter that it’s been “an interesting experience.” One source told CNN that Kellems left because of "general dysfunction and disrespect particularly towards younger, eager staff members." 

Hope Hicks, the campaign’s spokeswoman, did not return a request to comment on the recent staff changes. 

Barry Bennett, a former senior Trump adviser who still supports the campaign, downplayed the departures to The Hill, arguing that the moves are to be expected as the campaign transitions to the general election. 

“I don’t think you can call it a well-oiled machine right now, but this is just the growing pains that you go through,” Bennett said. 

“People get hired and they think they have certain responsibilities and then they find out they don’t, and everyone’s feelings are hurt. But they are all good people,” he added. “They need to do a better job at defining roles.”

Erica Freeman, another member of Trump’s surrogate team, exited the campaign less than a month after Trump directly rebuked a memo from her to surrogates. 

The memo, which Bennett said Freeman had been directed to send out, told surrogates to stop talking about Trump’s controversial attacks on an Indiana-born federal judge’s Mexican heritage.

“You guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren't so smart,” Trump said on a June conference call, according to Bloomberg. 

“It’s hard not to imagine she didn’t feel very appreciated,” Bennett said.

Observers thought that firing Lewandowski would end the internal strife by ridding the campaign of the Lewandowski-Manafort warring camps, but problems still persist. 

Strategists pointed to the unpredictable nature of Trump himself as one major reason why. 

“There are huge organizational problems within the Trump campaign, but the biggest problems the campaign has are candidate-related with respect to substance and discipline and self-control,” Mackowiak said. “No one staffer is going to fix those problems.” 

Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, highlighted the incident with Freeman as indicative of an “unworkable environment.” 

“A fish rots at the head and it appears that Trump’s style and stubbornness is causing the campaign to shed qualified staffers,” he said. 

Trump’s unpredictability, strategists say, keeps the campaign away from a unified message. 

For example, while the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails dominated the headlines this week, Trump’s comments praising former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein presented a distraction.

And his campaign’s recent use of a six-sided star in a Clinton attack, criticized as anti-Semitic, has similarly captured the news cycle for the worse.

The turmoil comes as Trump gears up to face a political juggernaut in the Clinton campaign, which reportedly employs more than 700 staffers compared to about 70 for him. 

She has furiously outpaced Trump on the airwaves with an eight-figure ad buy, on top of more than $100 million in commitments from her allied super-PAC. By comparison, Trump has spent nothing on ads. 

But Trump is now building out his fundraising apparatus to replenish his bank account and prove he can raise money. He announced Wednesday a June fundraising haul of $51 million, but still trails Clinton, who raised $68 million that same month.

And the Republican National Committee is stepping in to aide Trump’s campaign, helping to shoulder the load for digital, research and data work. 

The Trump campaign has been praised for hires to help transform his insurgent campaign into a more traditional, including Kellyanne Conway, the veteran pollster and strategist who formerly worked on Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE’s super-PAC, and Karen Giorno, a former Bush administration aide and Florida conservative strategist. 

Trump is also beefing up his communications team that was essentially run solely by Hicks, hiring former Cruz staffer Jason Millerand the RNC’s Michael Abboud. 

Strategists credit Manafort for steering the businessman in the right direction and highlight Trump’s improved fundraising abilities, commitment to adding staff and planned speeches. 

He’ll need to continue to ramp up, former campaign hands say, to ease the burden on the RNC and to hold his own with Clinton.

“It’s natural to want to keep that tight-knit group together, but it’s impossible to move into the general election with such a small team,” said Christian Ferry, John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Our military shouldn't be held hostage to 'water politics' Meghan McCain blames 'toxic' hostility for 'The View' exit MORE’s 2008 deputy campaign manager.

And Ford O’Connell, who also worked on McCain’s campaign, said that Trump’s primary playbook won’t cut it in a general election.

“The primary is more of art and the general election is more of a science,” he said.

But Bennett brushed aside comparing Trump’s campaign to history as “a fool’s errand.”

“Times have changed,” he said. “Donald Trump can post anything to Facebook and have more people read it than the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every newspaper combined.”