Phone recordings appear to contradict Trump campaign

Story highlights

  • The Trump campaign is distancing itself from an Arizona operative after his incendiary Facebook posts surfaced
  • But audio recordings the operative provided show very different conversations between the operative & Trump's campaign manager

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump's presidential campaign is grappling with audio recordings that appear to contradict its official account about its relationship with an Arizona political operative who made inflammatory Facebook posts.

After quietly cutting ties with Aaron Borders, who said he was gearing up to run Trump's Arizona operations, the campaign described Borders to Buzzfeed News as an "overzealous volunteer" who had no relationship with the campaign. Buzzfeed cited audio recordings that Borders made as evidence of contact with the campaign.
After the Buzzfeed story appeared, Borders also shared the audio recordings with CNN.
    The audio recordings reveal conversations between Borders and a male voice who identifies himself in at least one audio clip as "Corey Lewandowski," who is Trump's campaign manager.
    "Thank God I had (the recordings) because I would've had a bunch of egg on my face with people saying this guy made this stuff up," Borders told CNN in an interview Wednesday.
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    Lewandowski insisted Thursday that Borders "never worked for the Trump campaign in any capacity," citing the fact that Borders was never paid and did not have a contract -- something Borders does not deny.
    "Like many people he was going through the process of potentially doing work for the campaign," Lewandowski said. "Like we do with everyone (who reaches out), we tell them why don't you put a plan together and we'll vet that."
    He said others were also putting together proposals and Borders was in no way about to be hired by the campaign.
    Lewandowski said phone conversations between him and Borders in no way reflect the seriousness of the relationship, telling CNN that he returns calls of many people interested in playing a role in the campaign.
    In the recordings of phone calls, Lewandowski discusses potentially hiring Borders to lead the campaign's Arizona operations before telling him the campaign would need to downplay him as an "overzealous volunteer" in a later phone call.
    After learning of Borders' Facebook posts -- which include a doctored image of President Barack Obama in a turban with a beard, several photos of Obama alongside Adolf Hitler, and another photo saying Obama was "twice elected because the color of his skin rather than the content of his character -- Lewandowski tried to distance the campaign.
    The Trump team was already facing fallout from racially-charged social media posts by Sam Nunberg, a longtime aide who was later described as a "low-level" staffer and fired.
    Lewandowski told Borders, who doesn't deny his role in the posts, that the pair should tell Buzzfeed that "there's no formal relationship, that you're an overzealous volunteer and that you're not part of the campaign in any way shape or form, regardless of what the story says."
    "I just can't have this, it's a problem. It's just no good. It's negative publicity on staff. I just can't have it," he tells Borders. "We don't have a formal relationship. We're just gonna have to separate that, there's no way around it."
    And in a third call between the pair that Borders shared with CNN, Lewandowski identifies himself by first and last name and threatens to sue Borders for recording the call without his permission.
    "You know in New Hampshire, you need two-party consent to record a phone conversation. You record my phone conversation, I'm going to sue your f---ing a-- to next year, you know that, right?" he said.
    New Hampshire law requires both participants to sign off before recording a conversation while Arizona, the state in which Borders recorded the calls, does not.
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    Borders told CNN on Wednesday that he had spoken with Lewandowski and newly hired Trump campaign political director Michael Glassner and that he was set to sign a contract this week in Cleveland, the site of the first GOP presidential debate. Lewandowski denies that Borders was set to sign any contract with the campaign.
    New emails obtained by CNN on Wednesday show that Borders exchanged notes with Glassner as recently as Tuesday and the two discussed talking over the phone, which Lewandowski had suggested in an earlier exchange saying that Glassner "is the person who is running our state effort as the national political director."
    Borders said he first discussed heading up the Trump campaign's Arizona efforts after Trump's rally in Phoenix where he had helped gather and organize attendees and volunteers.
    Lewandowski then told Borders to "write the plan" for Trump's campaign in Arizona and discussed Borders becoming "part of the team," according to the phone recording Borders shared with CNN. Borders said he had already lined up office space for the campaign's Arizona campaign headquarters.
    "I had done a lot of work in preparation for all that. I was told that I was the guy," Borders said on Wednesday.
    Borders drew up a budget for campaign operations in the state, researched the state's delegate system and began formulating a plan to help Trump win the state's primary election, according to email exchanges with Lewandowski.
    Borders said his cell phone automatically records every call and he decided to release the recordings of his conversations with Lewandowski because he was being made out to be a liar who didn't have a relationship with the Trump campaign.
    "My goal is to make sure I keep my reputation because I don't want people thinking that I just made up this job. That's just not a fact," he said.
    Borders insisted he is not racist and said most of the posts were satirical in nature, but he said, "Donald Trump should not have to defend my posts. I have no problem with that."
    Borders' Facebook posts include a doctored image of President Barack Obama in a turban with a beard, several photos of Obama alongside Adolf Hitler, and another photo saying Obama was "twice elected because of the color of his skin rather than the content of his character."
    He also discusses in a post that he is suffering from "Post Islamic Stress Trauma with Apologetic Whitehouse Fatigue" which is due to Obama's presidency and watching Obama "pander to Muslim terrorists."