In an open letter to voters supporting Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, the former communications director of Trump’s now-defunct Super PAC said that the former reality television star not only never expected to be the Republican nominee, much less president, but never even wanted to be.
Writing for the website xojane.com, Stephanie Cegielski said that when she was brought aboard as communications director for the Make America Great Again PAC last summer, the instructions from Trump Tower were to make sure that Trump finished a respectable second in the GOP primary. It was made clear that Trump was running not as a serious contender, but as a “protest” candidate.
“I don't think even Trump thought he would get this far,” she wrote. “And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.
“He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver's seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
Cegielski, now an adjunct professor at New York University and the owner of a communications firm, said that she was a true believer herself when she was recruited to join the Super PAC.
“I was tired of the rhetoric in Washington. Negativity and stubbornness were at an all-time high, and the presidential prospects didn't look promising,” she wrote. In 2015, I fell in love with the idea of the protest candidate who was not bought by corporations. A man who sat in a Manhattan high-rise he had built, making waves as a straight talker with a business background, full of successes and failures, who wanted America to return to greatness. I was sold.”
But as time went on, she said, she came to realize that Trump’s entry into the race had always been about raising his own profile, not about actually winning a presidential nomination.
“Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now,” she wrote.
“He doesn't want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so.”
Cegielski, an attorney and the former vice president of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America, could be dismissed as a disgruntled former employee. The Trump campaign shut down the PAC that she worked for in October.
(Interestingly, Cegielski describes the move to shut the Super PAC as an “internal decision” made “in order to position him as the quintessential non-politician.” It’s unclear, but this at least suggests a degree of coordination between the campaign and the Super PAC, which would violate election laws.)
However, Cegielski said that she supported the decision to shut down the PAC and continued to support Trump “with great passion” afterward. It was only slowly, as she began to look at Trump “as a member of the voting public rather than a communications person charged with protecting his positions,” that she started to feel disillusioned.
In the end, she said, she decided that Trump is not an authentic voice for disaffected Americans alienated from Washington and left behind by the global economy.
Speaking to current Trump supporters, she wrote, “He is not that voice. He is not your voice. He is only Trump's voice.”