The turbulence in Donald Trump’s campaign could cost him money — potentially a lot of it.
Trump fundraisers say that large donors are holding back checks because they can’t trust that the businessman will stay disciplined enough to run a serious campaign.
Donors are sending furious text messages and emails to Trump fundraisers, asking how they can support a candidate who willingly trashes fellow Republicans, as he did this week by refusing to endorse Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in their reelection races.
“I just had a major donor tell me, ‘If he wants to do this’ — the guy’s ready to send the money … and he says to me, ‘If he wants to do this stuff, let him spend his own dough,’ ” a Trump fundraiser told The Hill on Wednesday. The fundraiser was granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.
“He said, ‘I’m on hold for right now. As much as I want to win … I don’t mind losing but I’m not going to just give money to a guy who’s beating himself and making stupid mistakes.’ ”
“There’s a lot of people who are very concerned and feel he has no discipline and that he’s not controllable.”
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, acknowledges the problem, multiple sources say, but donors don’t believe he has the ability to control the Republican nominee.
Both Manafort and the Trump children are trying to get the candidate back on message — back to talking about the economy and Hillary Clinton and her ethical problems.
But there are more basic problems with the Trump campaign that continue to frustrate senior officials and allies.
Trump’s lack of discipline on Twitter remains an issue, despite several aides now working on his Twitter feed.
“I would break his f—ing thumbs if I could … because he can’t stop f—ing tweeting,” said the Trump fundraiser.
The fundraiser said things had gotten so bad over the past 48 hours that there was no point in making fresh fundraising pitches on Wednesday. The only calls at the moment involve donors venting their anger, the fundraiser said.
“You know what a lot of donors are talking about? It’s that Trump is saying that the race is rigged … because he can’t accept blame. … He’s one of these personalities who can never say he’s wrong, never say he’s made a mistake.
“There’s nothing rigged,” the fundraiser added. “Look, if a few dead people vote in Chicago or Pennsylvania, who cares? That isn’t going to be the difference.”
Another senior member of Trump’s fundraising team told The Hill that donors are sending messages and emails saying, “Tell Trump to stay on message and keep attacking Hillary and stop the other antics.”
“People don’t understand what he’s doing,” the fundraiser said on Wednesday. “He’s not attacking Hillary, he’s attacking our own. You eat your young, right?”
“Do I feel uncomfortable? I’ve felt uncomfortable all along. The question is when do you lose your enthusiasm and stop working as hard.”
On Monday, the Minnesota broadcasting billionaire Stanley Hubbard sat down and wrote Trump a letter.
“Start saying things that are sensible; have some sensitivity,” is what Hubbard said he told Trump in the note.
“It frustrates all of us. It’s like he’s trying to shoot himself … and commit suicide,” added Hubbard, who said he maxed out to Trump’s campaign and “gave a lot of money” to the pro-Trump group Great America PAC.
Hubbard criticized Trump for his remarks about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier who criticized the billionaire businessman during the Democratic convention.
“It doesn’t make sense. You don’t put down a Gold Star family. Period. You don’t compare that man’s sacrifice to a life that’s never had to make a serious sacrifice that has affected your life or wellbeing. It’s ridiculous.”
“I think it will probably cost him money.”
Hubbard’s reaction, in a telephone interview with The Hill on Wednesday, reflects the frustration that’s boiling over inside Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, and in the fundraising and donor circles that are trying to help him.
The turmoil comes at a time when Trump’s fundraising appears to finally be gaining momentum. Yet he still needs to accelerate its cash flow into the fall to compete against Clinton and her allies, who will likely raise more than $1.5 billion.
The Trump campaign announced an $80 million July fundraising haul through its partnership with the RNC, a huge improvement from a standing start. Trump spent most of the primary season telling donors he didn’t want their money, and supplementing his campaign with his own checkbook.
Trump’s finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, rejects concerns about the campaign, telling The Hill in a telephone interview Wednesday that everything is under control. He pointed to the improved fundraising figures — including a flourishing small-dollar online operation — for June and July.
Asked whether the feuds between Trump and Ryan or with the Khan family were helpful, Mnuchin, a New York banker, said that he didn’t believe either posed a problem.
“This is between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump and whatever conversations they want to have,” said Mnuchin, who as well as raising money has given at least $425,000 of his own money to the Trump joint fundraising account, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“Both of these things seem to be a focus of the press,” Mnuchin said of the recent controversies. “It’s somewhat of a distraction. … If you look at our fundraising numbers, they couldn’t be more impressive. We went from $50 to $80 million.”
Another Trump fundraiser and $100,000 donor, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci, said he thought that Mnuchin “as a first-time finance chair who has done a heroic job of marshaling all of the resources.”