Trump, Clinton Campaign Managers Spar at IOP

Sparks flew between President-elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s respective campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Robby Mook during their first public appearance together since Election Day, as the two dissected the results of the presidential election and faced pointed questions from the audience.

Attendees leave the JFK Jr. Forum after the “War Stories: Inside Campaign 2016” event Thursday evening. At the event, which will be broadcast on CNN this Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook discussed the 2016 presidential election with moderator Jake Tapper.
The discussion, moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, was the featured event of a two-day conference on the 2016 presidential campaign at the Institute of Politics. The Washington Post reported contentious interactions between members of the Trump and Clinton campaigns at IOP panel events earlier on Thursday.

At an earlier event, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri accused Stephen K. Bannon—a top Trump adviser and Business School graduate—of inciting racism during the campaign, the Post reported Thursday evening. Palmieri also seemed to accuse Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, of “providing a platform for white supremacists.” Bannon was also initially slated to attend the IOP conference this week, but a Kennedy School spokesperson said Tuesday he would not be coming.

Student questions, which were pre-approved by the IOP, largely dealt with controversies during the Trump campaign.

“As a woman, how do you respond to criticism that President-elect Trump is misogynist?” Melia C. Henderson ’19 asked Conway.


“I know he’s not a misogynist,” Conway said. “I think people were very quick to cherry-pick a comment or an alleged incident here or there.”

Conway expressed disdain at some of the audience’s questions about Bannon, connections between the Trump campaign and the “Alt-right”—a movement associated with white nationalism—and Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration.

“To associate [Trump] with the most hateful elements of the nation,” Conway said, “I think is naive and unfair.”

The crowd also erupted into shouts when Conway accused the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization focusing on hate groups, of being an “anti-Trump organization.”

At one point, Mook attempted to shift the conversation from controversial remarks made by Clinton in September, in which she called many Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables,” to Trump’s divisive rhetoric. Conway interrupted.

“That’s what they do,” she said, referencing Mook’s change of subject.

“You both do it,” Tapper countered.

“Yes, but we won,” Conway said, smiling.

During the discussion, which lasted almost 90 minutes, Conway touched upon topics ranging from FBI Director James Comey’s letter regarding Clinton’s emails to the 2005 video of Trump bragging about groping women, and even private moments between the campaign managers and candidates.

Mook blamed Comey’s letter about a renewed review into Clinton’s email practices for torpedoing the campaign just over a week before the election.

“What happened? What went wrong?” Tapper asked Mook.

“We were expecting to perform better with suburban women,” Mook said. “We think that was because of the Comey letter.”

Conway countered, claiming that Clinton ran a “joyless” campaign.

The discussion in its entirety will air on CNN’s State of the Union with Tapper on Dec. 4.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.