McLEAN, Va. — Donald Trump’s presidential campaign fired its Virginia chairman Monday after he led a protest at GOP headquarters complaining that party-establishment “pukes” were undercutting their own nominee.
Corey Stewart, who also serves as chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Prince William County, organized the protest outside Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington to complain that the party is reallocating campaign funds to congressional races instead of the presidential campaign.
Stewart, who is running for governor in 2017, acknowledged that he had been warned against leading an intraparty protest. Indeed, he told the protesters Monday that he had been threatened by “those RNC-establishment pukes who have worked their way into the Trump campaign.”
After his dismissal, Stewart told The Associated Press that he was willing to sacrifice his job with the Trump campaign to make the point that the GOP establishment is alienating the grass-roots activists who support Trump.
“My loyalty is not to political operatives. My loyalty is to Mr. Trump,” Stewart said, adding that he’ll still be working informally to help Trump win.
John Fredericks, the co-chair and spokesman for Trump’s campaign in Virginia, said Stewart is welcome to continue working informally on Trump’s behalf. And he said he understood Stewart’s frustration, but that the protest was divisive and not helpful at this stage in the campaign.
“There’s no question that the Trump campaign is disappointed and frustrated that so many elected officials have decided not to support the nominee,” Fredericks said. “It’s one thing to be disappointed. It’s another thing to stage a public protest.”
In an interview with the AP shortly before the protest, Stewart had singled out House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, for bailing on Trump. Comstock had been noncommittal about Trump until Friday, when she said he should step down after a recording from 2005 was released in which Trump made vulgar references about his interactions with women.
Stewart said Comstock has done the bidding of Ryan and the GOP establishment during her time in the House.
“She’s been kissing his a–,” Stewart said, referring to Ryan.
John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, issued a statement supporting Stewart’s dismissal.
“This is a team effort. The Republican Party of Virginia, the Republican National Committee, and the Trump campaign are part of one team,” Whitbeck said. “With less than a month until election day, we can’t afford any distractions.”
Stewart, long an outspoken public official who made national headlines years ago for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, had previously earned a rebuke from Trump’s national campaign. In June, Stewart said in a Facebook post that a Trump administration would take a hard-line stance against illegal immigration and “we will kick their a—- out of the country, just like we did in Prince William County.” Trump’s campaign quickly distanced itself from Stewart’s comments.
Associated Press Writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report.