Political News

Manafort's role: Trump's delegate whisperer

Posted October 30, 2017 11:02 a.m. EDT

— Paul Manafort was brought on to Donald Trump's campaign team in March 2016 for a specific purpose: Securing Trump the Republican nomination amid an insurrection from delegates and the possibility of a contested convention.

Now facing a 12-count indictment on charges related to his longtime political work separate from the campaign, Manafort delivered for Trump, helping his team navigate the process to button up his GOP nomination before parting ways with the campaign later that summer.

Manafort was indicted by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller on charges unsealed Monday including alleged money laundering in relation to his work in the Ukraine, with nothing in the indictment related to Manafort's campaign work.

Trump brought Manafort on to the team as convention manager at the end of March and transferred all nomination functions to his purview in early April, when the possibility loomed that the remaining candidates could split enough delegates to prevent a clear nominee. Manafort was promoted to chairman in May, after Trump's Indiana primary win set him on the path to win enough delegates for the nomination.

The campaign cited Manafort's experience over decades with presidential campaigns, including the 1976 contested convention.

While Trump had locked up the delegates necessary in the primaries, an insurrection brewed among Republicans dissatisfied with his selection. Leaders of the "Never Trump" movement plotted for weeks leading up to the convention on how to alter the rules of the convention to allow delegates to vote their "conscience," and operatives rushed to have sympathetic individuals named as delegates at state conventions across the US.

Anti-Trump delegates organized themselves by text message and email lists, and consultants joined their cause to organize their efforts and offer expertise on how the convention could be up-ended.

Manafort, in coordination with Republican National Committee officials including chief Reince Priebus, who went on to be Trump's first White House chief of staff, rallied their own troops, spending the week before the convention putting down efforts on the Rules Committee to open up the floor proceedings for a vote.

The longtime Republican hand was highly visible in the convention center that week, speaking with the media and walking into meetings with Republican Party officials throughout the days leading up to the main event.

Despite failing in their efforts to craft the rules during the early week, delegates pursued a last-ditch effort on the floor of the convention hall when the rules were adopted at the full convening. The convention leaders declared the rules as accepted on a voice vote in a dramatic finale, as the convention hall erupted in a chorus of boos and competing "Trump" chants, with some of the anti-Trump delegates standing on chairs as they yelled about the process.

From there, though, the convention was largely Trump's affair, as orchestrated by Manafort, with his son, Donald Trump Jr., announcing the state delegates' votes that officially put him over the top for the GOP nomination. Talk of walk-outs or protests dissipated and the convention became the typical, celebratory affair.