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Long Island megadonor family played key role in Trump shake-up

Stephen Bannon was named the Trump campaign's CEO

Stephen Bannon was named the Trump campaign's CEO and Kellyanne Conway was promoted to campaign manager on Wednesday. July 20, 2016 Photo Credit: Getty Images for SiriusXM / Kirk Irwin

Weekend at Woody’s

It was already steamy Saturday night when Donald Trump, raising funds at the East Hampton home of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, was grilled by supporters about reports his advisers have tried to tame him. He was visibly infuriated, according to The Washington Post.

Trump then huddled with Rebekah Mercer — half of a father-and-daughter Long Island GOP megadonor duo with hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer — about reshaping the helm of his flailing campaign with voices more like his own.

A fast-moving series of calls and meetings that followed led to the recruitment of Stephen Bannon, honcho of the rambunctious, hard-right website Breitbart News, as campaign CEO, and the promotion of veteran GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager.

The shake-up ends the two-month reign of campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who had tried to soften Trump’s style to appeal to a broader range of voters, writes Newsday’s Michael Gormley. Manafort keeps the title, but his role is diminished.

The new team

Bannon’s website has been serving Trump’s cause since he emerged as a top contender, floating conspiracy theories and slash-and-burn stories on his political foes and targets including Muslims and immigrants.

See a profile here from CNN and a Bloomberg News takeout last year that called him “the most dangerous political operative in America” — a label that Trump’s news release Wednesday noted approvingly.

Conway is well known as a cable news commentator. One of her specialties is helping conservative Republican politicians make their messages more appealing to women voters.

The take-away: Reinforce the course

New leadership appointments by Clinton and Trump will disappoint some people on both sides hoping for change in their candidates, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Clinton’s transition chief, former Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar, has a record in favor of trade deals and fracking that upsets progressives. Trump’s choice of Bannon signals there will be no smoothing of the abrasive style that Republicans fear will doom them in November.

Report: Manafort aided stealth lobbying

Manafort helped a pro-Russian ruling party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million to Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that obscured the foreign effort to influence U.S. policy, The Associated Press reported.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties, the AP said.

One of lobbying firms, ironically, is the Podesta Group, whose founder and chairman, Tony Podesta, is the brother of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Taxes: So what’s new?

Clinton, campaigning in Cleveland, attacked Trump’s tax plans as a giveaway to the superrich who should pay more.

An Associated Press analysis found that for those with less stratospheric incomes, the contrasts in the candidates’ proposals mirror traditional Democratic and Republican ideas.

Benghazi mom’s writer may defect

The speechwriter who crafted the Republican convention speech denouncing Clinton by Patricia Smith, the mother of a Benghazi victim, writes in The Baltimore Sun that he may end up voting for the Democratic candidate.

“The prospect of voting for Hillary Clinton is uncomfortable to me, as if Dr. Van Helsing were compelled to vote for Dracula,” said Richard J. Cross III, but “I may yet have to vote for her because of the epic deficiencies of my own party’s nominee.”

The growing list of GOP departures also now includes Daniel Akerson, former CEO of General Motors.

What else is happening

  • With two House Republicans asking the Justice Department to bring perjury charges against Clinton for her testimony to Congress, an ABC News legal analysis finds making false statements isn’t enough to sustain the charge. There has to be evidence of intent.
  • One Manafort failure came early — he tried to talk Trump out of his notorious Cinco de Mayo taco bowl tweet, The Huffington Post reports. Said Trump afterward: “The people who were offended were people we wanted to offend.”
  • Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both top advisers, vacationed in Europe on the yacht of Hollywood billionaire David Geffen, a big Democratic donor.
  • A Monmouth poll finds Trump up by 11 points in Indiana, thanks in part to the home-state popularity of his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence.
  • A new set of Quinnipiac polls has more purple-state blues for Trump. Clinton leads by 10 points in Colorado, 12 points in Virginia and 3 points in Iowa.
  • Vogue profiled Clinton’s longtime close aide Huma Abedin and found her “powerful, glamorous” and possessed of an unusual “sartorial polish” for a political staffer. Abedin’s rare cooperation for the magazine piece yielded a more rewarding result than it did for the documentary “Weiner.”
  • Back in 2002, Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, said Bill Clinton should have resigned because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
  • For some reason, Trump tweeted early Thursday: "They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!"
  • The Christie administration in New Jersey gave Trump casinos a remarkably generous break on nearly $30 million owed for back taxes
  • Trump repeated his dubious claim that bombs were spotted in the apartment of the San Bernadino shooters before the massacre.
  • Another rumor spread by the trailing GOP candidate remains unsubstantiated: That Clinton is in poor health.
  • Trump's candidacy threatens the chances of New England's last few Republicans in Congress, Bloomberg News reports.
  • Mike Pence is trying to unite Republicans but "Trump isn't helping him do it," Politico reports.

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