Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump rebuffed political aides’ requests to research his past, people familiar with the matter said, a decision that contributed to his campaign being caught unprepared for the past week’s barrage of claims he mistreated women.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, requested that Trump submit himself to a forensic evaluation that is traditional for any public figure seeking office, according to people granted anonymity to speak freely about the campaign’s start-up days last year. Opposition research would allow Trump’s new political team to prepare for potential attacks on his candidacy.
Paul Manafort and his team made a similar request when they took over the reins after Lewandowski, who was ousted this June.
Trump declined, the people said, and the issue became a point of contention among his closest political advisers and some long-time employees at the Trump Organization. Trump spokespeople Jason Miller and Hope Hicks didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump’s new political team wondered about the secrets that might be lurking in the real-estate developer and TV personality’s past – beyond the pages of New York City tabloids, where the candidate, who is now 70, was a regular feature for his entire adult life.
Now, Trump is fighting an onslaught of scrutiny of his behavior toward women, less than one month before voters cast final judgment on him and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Some of the scrutiny is a result of Trump’s own words, including in a 2005 video that surfaced Friday where he bragged about being able to do “anything” to women because of his fame.
Both the New York Times and People magazine reported fresh allegations Wednesday from women who say Trump touched them inappropriately, without their consent. The candidate has flatly denied all accusations, tweeting that the incidents never happened.
Roger Stone and Michael Cohen, two of Trump’s earliest advisers, also advocated for a forensic research effort to be conducted when Trump was considering running for governor, but Trump declined.
In the months before Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015, Lewandowski huddled with a small team of aides in Trump Tower to prepare for his candidacy. They knew early on that Trump would rely on an abundance of free media and utilize his celebrity appeal to bolster crowd sizes that they anticipated would dwarf a packed Republican field of candidates. His unpredictability, they argued, would be an asset.
But they also recognized it would be a liability. His new political team wondered about the secrets that might be lurking in the real-estate developer and TV personality’s past-beyond the pages of New York City tabloids, where the candidate, who is now 70, was a regular feature for his entire adult life.
Republican National Committee officials conducted opposition research on Trump and the other members of the GOP field, one of the people familiar with the matter said, but the results yielded nothing substantial. There was no mention, for example, of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that the Washington Post first reported last week, sending Trump’s campaign into crisis.
Lewandowski, according to people familiar with the matter, did prepare research regarding Trump’s positions on the Iraq War (Trump has said he opposed the war from the beginning, though he said in a radio interview prior to the invasion that he supported the war). Lewandowski also researched how to respond to criticism during the Republican primary that Trump had given money to Democrats.
Trump’s decision not to bless a full opposition research effort about himself was seen inside the campaign as one of the first in a series of unconventional decisions that Trump would make. Indeed, while Trump’s inner circle has gone through various iterations, his political advisers still do not know the extent of the material his opponents may have prepared to mount against him.
“I don’t know what’s out there,” said Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who took the job this August, on Fox News on Wednesday. “There’s no way for me to know what is and isn’t out there.”