Trump replaces campaign manager Brad Parscale with former Chris Christie adviser

Parscale's fate was an open secret following the sea of empty seats at Trump's "comeback rally" in Oklahoma

Published July 15, 2020 9:40PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Brad Parscale (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump and Brad Parscale (Getty Images/Salon)

President Donald Trump has replaced campaign manager Brad Parscale with former White House political director Bill Stepien, the New York Times first reported Wednesday.

Parscale will stay on as senior adviser for digital and data operations, according to campaign officials.

Reports first placed Parscale on the chopping block back in late April, when an irate Trump reportedly threatened to sue him in a profanity-riddled phone call after internal polls showed the president in a deep deficit to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Parscale immediately flew to Washington to reassure his boss, but over the next weeks, he failed to deliver as Trump continued to slip in polls. That was a point reportedly driven home by Karl Rove, who was called in to offer emergency advice at the request of Mitch McConnell.

After a disastrous series of events surrounding Trump's June 20 "comeback rally" in Oklahama, which included thousands of fans of Korean pop music trolling Parscale by artificially inflating registration numbers, the self-proclaimed data guru's fate was all but public.

His replacement, Stepien, advised Trump's 2016 campaign and later served as White House political director. In 2019, Stepien helped convince Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey to switch party affiliations from Democrat to Republican during Trump's impeachment proceedings.

This year, Van Drew hired Stepien out of the White House to be his campaign manager. Now, he has been poached back by Trump.

Prior to 2016, Stepien was the campaign manager for former Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. Christie fired Stepien in 2014 after the "Bridgegate" scandal, saying he had "lost confidence" in his judgment.

In 2016, Parscale upended campaign strategy by being among the first to apply digital marketing techniques widely used outside the political sphere, such as advanced micro-targeting of custom-tweaked ads on Facebook.

But Parscale had reportedly rankled Trump in other ways, among them cashing in on his position by contracting out tens of millions of dollars in campaign business to a variety of other companies which he owned.

Earlier this year, Parscale was reported to have been issuing secret payments to Kim Guilfoyle and Lara Trump, the romantic partners of the president's two adult sons.

Parscale's demotion comes as he was apparently attempting to capture that same 2016 lighting in a bigger, better bottle, constructing a massive but vaguely articulated digital data fundraising machine dubbed by some in the press as the "Death Star."

The Death Star explodes at the end of the first "Star Wars" movie. The Empire then builds a second, larger version, which at the end of the "Return of the Jedi" also explodes.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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Bill Stepien Brad Parscale Chris Christie Donald Trump Elections Elections 2020 Politics Republicans