Clinton, Trump Campaign Aides Clash at Post-Election Forum | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Clinton, Trump Campaign Aides Clash at Post-Election Forum

Thursday's discussion came as the push for ballot recounts in several key states gains momentum



    President-elect Donald Trump starts his victory tour at a Carrier plant in Indiana on Dec. 1, 2016, celebrating Carrier's decision to keep a thousand jobs slated for Mexico within the United States. (Published Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016)

    Tempers flared and political fault-lines were inflamed, as aides to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gathered for their first meeting since Election Day.

    Every four years since 1972, top presidential campaign aides have met for a polite discussion of the fierce battle they just waged.

    Not so this year.

    After an election that left the political world spiraling, this year's gathering at the Harvard University's Institute of Politics felt an awful lot like group therapy — or a knife fight. Stony-faced campaign aides heckled pollsters, jeered top media executives and traded shouted charges of racism, sexism and fear-mongering.

    "Let's be honest, don't act as if you have some popular mandate for your message," said Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Joel Benenson, citing Clinton's more than 2 million-vote lead in the popular vote. "Hey guys, we won," Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, shot back. She later added: "Hashtag: he's your president. How about that?"

    The evening forum, hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper, is intended to give an insider's view of the 2016 presidential campaign, including what the candidates did right or wrong during the bruising contest.

    Trump's Pick of Steve Bannon Draws Criticism

    [NATL-NY] Trump's Pick of Steve Bannon Draws Criticism
    President-elect Donald Trump's choice of Steve Bannon as senior advisor has drawn widespread criticism.
    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016)

    Here were some of the exchanges:

    Trump's aides defended his controversial statements, including his recent comments about criminalizing flag-burning, a Muslim travel ban and his racial comments about a federal judge overseeing class-action lawsuits against Trump University.

    "I think the American people agree with him that burning the flag is wrong," said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was fired in June. "I don't care what the Supreme Court has said."

    Besides, they argued, there was little they could do to change the mind of a political novice who'd just bested a primary slate of well-known Republican politicians.

    Clinton's team said they didn't regret their responses to Trump's racist and sexist remarks, saying they were some of their proudest moments in the race. "If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I would rather lose than win the way you guys did," said Clinton's Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, her voice shaking.

    "Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?" Conway asked.

    Benenson piled on, accusing Trump's team of sending out "dog whistles" to its supports. "Look at your rallies. He delivered it,” Bensenson added.

    Conway accused Clinton’s team of being sore losers.

    The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    [NATL-NY] The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)

    Top Trump staffers cited the billionaire businessman's "innate understanding" of the media as a major reason for his victory, crediting his unique ability to drive the news cycle and social media.

    The coverage struck a nerve with his rivals, who argued that the media gave Trump benefits they didn't get. Aides to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign admitted they feared the "full Trump" — their term for when the New York mogul was shown simultaneously on all three cable news networks.

    At a panel on the media's role in the election, top GOP campaign managers heckled CNN's Jeff Zucker after the network president claimed that other candidates turned down interview requests.

    "I don't remember being asked to call in," shouted former Carly Fiorina campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores, arguing that the cable news shows would demand other candidates show up at a studio while letting Trump phone in.

    "You showed empty podiums," shouted Todd Harris, who worked on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign.

    Zucker stood his ground: "I understand that emotions continue to run high. That is not cable news' fault and that is not CNN's fault."

    Trump's campaign argued that Clinton should have simply released all her emails to the public, nullifying some of their attacks. Instead, Trump's deputy campaign manager David Bossie said her team "used the old Clinton playbook" by fighting off lawsuits asking to make her correspondence public.

    "Is that the playbook you used on taxes?" asked campaign manager Robby Mook, citing Trump's decision not to release his tax returns. Bossie shot back: "It was a winning playbook, I guess."

    WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    [NATL] WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews kiss after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday. Her niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William.

    (Published Saturday, May 20, 2017)

    Trump's staff argued that Clinton simply didn't work for it, citing their more active travel schedule coming out of the national conventions, and failed to motivate women voters despite her historic role as the first female major party nominee. They also said that Clinton's understanding of the electorate was wrong, saying they used a model that projected turn-out more akin to the 2014 midterm races, when Democratic turnout was low, than President Barack Obama's 2012 victory.

    Clinton's team attributed their devastating defeat to a lot of factors — just few self-inflicted. Aides argued that FBI director James Comey's investigation, media coverage, the hacking of Democratic email accounts, gender bias and even Clinton's personal penchant for privacy and policy were to blame for her defeat. They accused Trump's team of peddling lies on social media and alt-right websites.

    "I don't think you guys give yourself enough credit for the negative campaign you ran," said strategist Mandy Grunwald, pointing to Trump's historic negative ratings and his team's trafficking in conservative media. "There was a very impressive gassing of her."

    Palmieri said her only strategic regret was not pushing for a fourth debate, arguing that Clinton was strongest when she faced off on a stage with Trump. Mook admitted he regretted not putting more staff in Michigan, a state her team lost narrowly. But said Grunwald, dismissing many of the post-game analysis, "it's all theoretic."

    ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    [NATL] ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    A person in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume allegedly growled at a pair of horses pulling a carriage in Charleston, South Carolina. The horses were frightened and caused the carriage to jackknife, injuring the driver.

    (Published Friday, May 19, 2017)

    Strategists on both sides of the aisle were struggling with a big question in the post-Trump world: Do the time-worn tactics of political campaigns still apply? Trump won, according to his aides, not by issuing serious policy plans or establishing an extensive political machine but through "branding."

    "You guys took Donald Trump so literally and the American public didn't," Lewandowski said.

    Clinton's campaign, saddled with a policy wonk candidate, felt penalized for playing by the old rules. "This was the first sort of post-factual campaign and I think you were punished for telling the truth and being true to nuance," Mook said.

    The well-funded Super PACs and extensive political organizations in battleground states "didn't matter," said Dave Kochel, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's chief strategist, who likened Trump to Godzilla. "(Trump) touched the third rail. He touched the fourth rail. He touched the fifth rail and just kept growing," he said.

    'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    [NATL] 'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spent two days in Jordan and toured the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees on Sunday. She said that the Trump administration's stated intent to slash humanitarian aid worldwide would not affect U.S. support for the crisis in Syria.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)