Donald Trump aides and people close to his campaign are increasingly frustrated by his insistence on waging various fights that steer him off message.
Sources close to the campaign are describing a series of missteps that are trailing the GOP presidential nominee, most prominently his now multi-day battle against Khizr Khan, the Muslim father of a killed US soldier.
Trump has spent the days since the Democratic convention litigating whether their son is a hero, and on Tuesday only moved onto an equally unhelpful news cycle: whether he supports House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the 2008 presidential nominee, John McCain, in their primaries.
A knowledgeable Republican source told CNN that some of Trump’s campaign staff — even campaign manager Paul Manafort — “feel like they are wasting their time,” given Trump’s recent comments. And two sources close to the Trump campaign said privately they wished Trump would apologize to the Gold Star family, even though the Khans attacked Trump from the stage at the Democratic National Convention last month.
One of those sources, who has spoken on Trump’s behalf, said Trump should go further and apologize to “all military families.”
Two Trump insiders said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has talked to Trump several times in recent days, conveying the dismay among senior party leaders and donors.
It has been relayed to Trump hat he is losing what tenuous support he has in the party establishment, and that already skeptical donors are heading for the exits or telling the senior team can’t count on serious progress when he looks so toxic.
“(Manafort) has made clear no one can help him if no one believes he will do what it takes to win,” said a senior trump aide.
Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, disputed any signs of frustration within the campaign.
“The idea that Paul Manafort is mailing it in is completely erroneous. Our campaign just finished up our strongest month of fundraising to date, we’re adding talented and experienced staffers on a daily basis and Mr. Trump’s turning out bigger, more enthusiastic crowds than Hillary Clinton ever could,” he said in a statement.
Yet a source close to the campaign stressed that despite Miller’s statement, there are indeed tensions behind the scenes.
Another source close to the campaign expressed bewilderment over Trump’s fight with Ryan, saying Trump should focus on issues that actually matter to people.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
John King contributed to this report.