July 16, 2015.
Photo: Christopher Gregory/Getty Images
On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign by descending an escalator in the atrium of Trump Tower, cheered on by his family, staff, and tourists plucked off the street and handed first-printing MAGA shirts. The event was profoundly weird, even before Trump started speaking.
This Sunday marked the four-year anniversary of Trump’s campaign launch, and with his reelection bid slated to kick off Tuesday in Florida, both Politico and the Washington Post recently published behind-the-scenes accounts of that momentous day in midtown. The accounts from Trump campaign staffers, journalists, and members of rival campaigns suggest the weird day was ever weirder than previously known. Here’s what we’ve learned.
They thought “it would look amateurish and not remotely presidential,” according to the Post. And they were right. George Gigicos, an early campaign hand, suggested Trump take the escalator up after the speech, but the future president insisted on riding it down.
“No, I’m going down the escalator,” he said — an early example of him flouting the norms and conventions of politics at nearly every juncture, and often prevailing.
Back in 2015, Michael Cohen was still Trump’s right-hand man. Why Trump didn’t end their relationship after these suggestions is a mystery though:
Some in Trump’s orbit — including Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-fixer and personal lawyer, who is serving a three-year prison term for tax evasion and campaign finance violations, among other misdeeds — pushed for a circuslike spectacle, complete with elephants and women in bikinis.
Initially dressed in black, Trump switched out one ill-fitting suit for another at the last minute, for reasons that former adviser Sam Nunberg explained to Politico:
Sam Nunberg, Trump political adviser: He came down [to his office on the 26th floor] in the black “Apprentice” suit. So he says, “What do you think?” And I say, “It’s great … You’re the businessman, you’re the business candidate.” Right? Because he had told me about black or blue [in a conversation about which suit to wear]. And I said, “I think you should wear black, myself.” OK? I just said, “Go with black. You know, you’re the celebrity, you’re the icon.” It’d be like Reagan — Reagan always wore the same black suit on his announcements. So then he goes to me, “So you like the black suit?” And I go, “Yeah.” He goes, “No, you’re a fucking idiot. Get out.” And he closes the door. And he switches into blue.
In the summer of 2015, there were a lot of reasons to not take Trump’s presidential campaign seriously. He’d flirted with the idea of running before, but always as a publicity stunt. Few expected anything different four years ago, especially after a launch event that looked like sideshow. As two members of Jeb Bush’s team told Politico, the whole thing seemed like a joke.
Michael Steel, senior adviser, Jeb Bush campaign: I was sitting with the policy team at Jeb’s headquarters, kind of an aging office building on the outskirts of Miami, and the policy shop had a TV, like a projection TV or something. Anyway, I remember the screen was really big but not very clear, and we all watched it as he was coming down the escalator … It seemed like a joke at the time.
Tim Miller, communications director, Jeb Bush campaign: A complete joke. Not serious. Not actually running for president.
Reporters on the scene spoke to some of the assembled supporters and found that Trump’s base wasn’t quite as strong four years ago as it is today.
William Turton: I stood outside interviewing folks with signs … Basically, none of them spoke English. There was this one Italian family, I remember, who had these Trump signs, and I just asked them, “Why do you like Trump?” And they could barely string together a sentence in English.
Joel Rose, correspondent, NPR: You would ask people why they were there, and they would give you these weird, vague answers.
Juliet Papa, reporter, 1010 WINS Radio: Somebody said they were, like, a part-time actor. So I just started assuming that they were sort of rented for the occasion.
To those around Trump in 2015, the word “campaign” had nothing to do with politics.
Hope Hicks — who at the time handled publicity for the Trump Organization and would eventually become the White House communications director — wasn’t sure what Trump was talking about when he called her into his office to tell her he was headed to Iowa and wanted her to be the press secretary for his campaign.
“Which one? The Doral marketing campaign?” Hicks asked, referring to one of Trump’s golf properties, according to an account by Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, in his book, “Let Trump Be Trump.”
To which Trump replied: “No. My presidential campaign! I’m running for president.”
Weird New Details About Trump’s Infamous Escalator Ride
All the Weird New Details About Trump’s Infamous Escalator Ride
By Adam K. Raymond
Four years later, Trump’s campaign launch sounds even stranger. But at least Michael Cohen’s call for elephants and bikini-clad women was scrapped.
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In a post from a day before the attempted shooting, Clyde posted a picture of a sword, saying that he was a “gladius” about to “defend the modern Republic.” His last post before the shooting featured a picture of his bare legs.
Clyde’s Facebook page is otherwise filled with vague warnings of an upcoming attack, conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, memes from far-right internet subcultures like 4chan, and misogynist memes.
In a video posted June 9, he warned that “the storm is coming,” a phrase frequently used by anti-government internet conspiracy theorists, and said he didn’t know how much time he had left. The video ends with Clyde saying he’s “ready,” and holding up a long gun.
References to incels, or the “involuntary celibate” internet community that is prominent on extreme misogynist message boards, are frequently posted in memes on Clyde’s page.
A man in a mask, combat gear and glasses who opened fire Monday morning at the Earle Cabell federal courthouse in downtown Dallas was shot and killed by officers before he could injure anyone.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno identified the shooter as Brian Isaack Clyde, 22 at a news conference on a street corner outside the federal building. Clyde died at the scene and was taken to Baylor University Medical Center, after police responded to an active shooter call, officials said.
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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a new settlement in the Golan Heights named after his “great friend” Donald Trump.
Netanyahu unveiled a sign at the proposed site of the settlement on Sunday bearing the name “Trump Heights,” and thanked the US President for breaking with the international community to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the region.
“We are proud that we have the opportunity to establish a new settlement and to give thanks to a great friend,” Netanyahu told a celebratory cabinet meeting at the site. “We will continue to grow and develop the Golan for all of our citizens – Jews and non-Jews together.”
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If you have the stomach for the backstory of Trump’s fateful escalator ride four years ago, read this
When President Trump announced his seemingly quixotic presidential bid on June 16, 2015 — four years ago Sunday — he descended a golden escalator into the atrium of his Trump Tower Manhattan skyscraper and upended the course of political history.
But at the time, nearly every member of his nascent political team urged Trump not to ride a moving stairway down to his announcement. They fretted it would look amateurish and not remotely presidential. At one point, George Gigicos, the campaign’s director of advance, offered a compromise: that Trump instead take the elevator, give his speech and then ride the escalator back up once he was done — like a mechanical rope line, Gigicos suggested.
Trump was insistent. “No, I’m going down the escalator,” he said — an early example of Trump flouting the norms and conventions of politics at nearly every juncture, and often prevailing.
West Virginia teachers aren’t done protesting
West Virginia teachers went on strike in February to protest a bill that would open up the state to charter schools and help students pay for alternatives to the public education system. They won that strike, and went back to work, when the House of Delegates’ rejected the legislation. Just four months later, history is repeating itself.
Earlier this month, the state Senate passed two bills similar to the one teachers protested in February, but with additional language that makes it more difficult for the educators to go on strike. The fate of the bills is again in the hands of the House of Delegates, which reconvenes on Monday.
The bills represent the latest skirmish in a nearly two-year tug-of-war between local teachers and state legislators, during which teachers went on strike twice. The first walkout, in 2018, protested low pay and health care costs, and was teachers’ first in the state since 1990. It lasted nine days and helped spur a “red state revolt” across the country, as teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and elsewhere subsequently staged their own walkouts. The second strike in West Virginia earlier this year lasted just two days.
Was Trump a Mötley Crüe fan back in the ‘80s?
Only Fake Polls show us behind the Motley Crew. We are looking really good, but it is far too early to be focused on that. Much work to do! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Another area where Mayor Pete is on the rise
Pete Buttigieg’s campaign jolted its top donors with big news on a conference call last month: The upstart mayor had raised $7 million in the month of April alone, as much as Buttigieg had in his entire eye-catching first quarter in the presidential race.
The huge April haul, which was previously unreported, highlights Buttigieg’s explosive rise in the Democratic presidential race — and Buttigieg hopes to do it again next month by announcing a top-tier second quarter haul that at least doubles his last campaign finance report, putting the 37-year-old among the biggest fundraisers seeking the presidency in 2020 and cementing his leap from long shot status at the beginning this year.
A new escalation in the U.S. conflict with Iran
Iran announced on Monday that it would soon exceed the limits on the nuclear fuel it is permitted to possess under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from last year, leaving the door open to an “unlimited rise” in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium and potentially triggering another flashpoint with Washington.
The announcement by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was the country’s latest signal that it will abandon the pact unless the other signatories to the deal help Iran circumvent punishing United States economic sanctions imposed by President Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at the European signatories, to convince them to break with Washington and swiftly restore some of the economic benefits of the deal to Tehran.
After the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged any outside companies from doing business with Iran. More recently, it followed that up with measures to all but cut off Iran’s revenues from oil sales, the lifeblood of its economy.
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Axios on HBO: “Republicans claimed that John Kerry was a traitor in Vietnam. That Barack Obama was a Muslim. If you were to win the nomination, they’ll say you’re too young, too liberal, too gay to be commander-in-chief. You are young. You are a liberal. You are gay. How will you respond?”
Pete Buttigieg: “I’ll respond by explaining where I want to lead this country. People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones.”
Axios on HBO: “You believe that we’ve had a gay commander-in-chief?”
Pete Buttigieg: “I mean, statistically, it’s almost certain.”
Axios on HBO: “In your reading of history, do you believe you know who they were?”
Pete Buttigieg: “My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present, let alone retroactively. But one can only assume that’s the case.”
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