They’ve been with him from the beginning — when no one believed he could win, and when the Republican Party establishment wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.
But now, as President-elect Donald Trump builds out his administration, the loyalists who helped launch his campaign and powered its stunning early victories are growing worried they won’t be getting plum jobs.
Many of them say they’ve heard nothing about their career prospects and, during furtive huddles, have been commiserating with one another about how they can’t seem to get their calls to top Trump transition brass returned. Some are convinced that party establishment figures who’ve taken the reins of the transition are giving them short shrift.
Compounding their frustration is that a number of top posts are going to mainstream party figures who previously actively opposed Trump. The president-elect is seriously considering tapping Mitt Romney, a onetime leader of the Never Trump movement, to be secretary of state. He has already made Todd Ricketts, whose family funded an anti-Trump super PAC during the primaries, deputy commerce secretary. And on Thursday, Trump met with retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who had been vetted by Hillary Clinton as a possible vice presidential choice but now may end up in Trump’s administration.
The concerns have become so intense that Karen Giorno, a Trump aide who oversaw his successful Florida campaign during the Republican primaries, recently had a telephone conversation with the president-elect in which she expressed concern that Trump loyalists wouldn’t be getting White House roles. During the call, which was described by three sources, Giorino also said she was alarmed that his establishment-minded choice for White House chief of staff, outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, wouldn’t support the early staffers who worked for him. (Neither Giorno nor a Trump spokesperson would comment.)
Transition officials say it’s far too early for anyone to lose hope. At this juncture, the president-elect has announced only a few senior-ranking positions and has focused most of his time on filling high-level Cabinet posts. But the angst provides a window into the early machinations of a divided administration, one that was catapulted to victory by a ragtag group of conservative outsiders running against a party establishment but that now is being co-opted by that establishment.
Roger Stone, a Republican strategist and longtime Trump friend, has given voice to the concerns. During a Wednesday appearance guest-hosting Alex Jones’ radio show, Stone said he visited Trump Tower this week and found “an armada of retreads from the old Republican Party, both the congressional wing of the party and the Romney-McCain-Bush burnouts who are trying to board this ship.”
“I saw people and heard about people whose names I haven’t heard in 25 to 30 years,” he added. “These are people who did nothing whatsoever to elect Donald Trump and they’re people who don’t share Donald Trump’s values. They disagree with him on trade, they disagree with him on monetary policy, they disagree with him on immigration. Yet, they seek glory and titles.”
As it stands, a number of Trump originals, as they call themselves, have yet to be promised positions in the administration. That includes people like George Gigicos, Trump’s director of advance; Michael Glassner, the former deputy campaign manager; and Stuart Jolly, the former national field director. The staffers who led Trump’s campaign in early primary states — like Matt Ciepielowski, Charles Munoz and James Merrill — haven’t been offered positions, either. Nor has Mike Rubino, who oversaw Trump’s campaign in several states, or Stephanie Milligan, who ran his Oklahoma campaign.
For some, it isn’t for lack of trying. Jolly, has had talks with people close to the transition, said sources briefed on the matter. But it’s unclear whether he’s being considered for any coveted positions. Jolly declined to comment.
Some may do something else entirely. Alan Cobb, who was national director of coalitions, is working on the transition but has not been offered an administration job and instead is exploring a campaign for a soon-to-be-open congressional seat in Kansas.
There are even questions about the fates of Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks, two early Trump aides who have practically become household names. Lewandowski spent part of the week working out of Trump Tower. Hicks has frequently been at Trump’s side during the transition.
In interviews, a handful of Trump originals, none of whom agreed for their names to be used, said they were deeply frustrated about the lack of clarity around their futures. Some said they had risked their careers working for Trump, having been warned by friends that they would never get another job in politics once he lost. Others said they felt cut of the loop and were struggling to get information about what’s in store for them.
Most of the early campaign hires would never have been considered for the high-ranking jobs that are currently being allocated and would be more qualified for lower-profile jobs that tend to get filled out later in the process.
But many Trump loyalists worry that no one is looking out for them, since they were brought in by Lewandowski and his allies. The campaign leadership turned over multiple times since those early days, giving them less connection to the folks who took Trump across the finish line.
Several say they feel alienated from the transition effort — especially from Priebus, an establishment figure who will be White House chief of staff. Priebus collided bitterly earlier this year with Lewandowski, who as Trump’s first campaign manager hired many of the originals, and played a major role in his June firing.
While the originals fret, Priebus is moving aggressively to lock down top positions for his allies. Two Priebus lieutenants, Sean Spicer and RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh, are expected to fill senior roles.
“Those people now have big jobs, while Corey Lewandowski, Alan Cobb, Karen Giorno and others are on the outside with their noses pressed against the glass,” one early Trump campaign staffer groused.
Those involved in the transition say they expect many of Trump’s early aides to get plum jobs. It’s possible, for example, that Gigicos will be offered director of White House advance. He has overseen planning for Trump’s appearance at Saturday’s Army-Navy football game in Baltimore.
“Even most of the people closest to Trump have not been offered jobs,” said one transition source. “I get that some of these people are concerned, but many of them have been told that they’ll be taken care of. There has actually been an effort to keep them.”
For some, the reassurance isn’t enough.
“None of us are exactly Cabinet-level,” said one staffer who is among those pining for a job but so far hasn’t been given any promises. “Most of us just want to do a good job and help the country, but apparently we don’t play the game very well.”
Yousef Saba contributed to this report.
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