Trump campaign fires Virginia chair after RNC protest

Story highlights

  • Stewart and other Trump supporters in Virginia were trying to convince the RNC not to abandon Trump
  • Trump's support in the GOP has faded since the weekend

(CNN)Donald Trump's campaign on Monday fired its Virginia chair after he staged a controversial protest in front of the Republican National Committee, the latest flare-up between Republican Party establishment and Trump forces.

Corey Stewart, a candidate for governor next year and a Trump loyalist in the state, has been let go from his unsalaried, but influential position, according to a Trump campaign source. Stewart had been threatened by multiple campaign aides earlier on Monday when he staged his small demonstration against the RNC for supposedly abandoning his candidate.
Stewart shared multiple text messages with CNN from people who claimed to be Trump campaign aides, warning of "major consequences."
    "Do not protest the RNC," one text message said, referencing Trump's deputy campaign manager. "Call Dave Bossie immediately."
    Stewart and a group of about 30 Trump supporters in Virginia were trying to convince the RNC not to abandon Trump in the wake of falling poll numbers and lewd videos that has dismayed many in party leadership.
    Reached immediately after news emerged on Monday, Stewart, who expected to be fired for demonstrating, said he had not heard of his ouster. But he immediately took shots at people like Bossie.
    "I'm loyal to him," Stewart said, "not loyal to political operatives."
    Stewart told CNN the following day he had no regrets over protesting and does not feel betrayed by the Trump campaign.
    But he did condemn the Republican establishment, promising to "absolutely" hold them to account if the GOP is decimated this election cycle.
    "Establishment Republicans are undermining the Trump campaign," Stewart told CNN's John Berman and Kate Bolduan on "At This Hour." "There are elements within the campaign who came on board in September and some a little bit earlier than that, that are really part of the Republican establishment and I don't necessarily think they have Mr. Trump's best interests in mind."
    He conceded it would be "very difficult" for Trump to win on November 8 without an injection of RNC resources in states like Virginia, adding: "As a party, you've got to come around the candidate."
    John Whitbeck, the Republican Party's Virginia chairman, called Stewart's firing "disappointing" but said he supports the campaign's "decision to remove their Virginia chairman. With less than a month until Election Day, we can't afford any distractions."
    Trump's support in the GOP has faded in the wake of a 2005 tape that reveals him making lewd and sexually aggressive remarks about women. On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he will no longer defend Trump and instead will focus on preserving his party's hold on Congress, though he did not formally rescind his endorsement.
    Over the weekend, dozens of fellow Republican lawmakers withdrew their support for Trump, many insisting he should withdraw from the race entirely. The defections came largely from Republican lawmakers facing tough re-election battles, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte. In the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Trump should step aside.
    But RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, in a conference call with committeemembers early Monday evening, said nothing will change regarding its relationship to the Trump campaign. The GOP nominee's debate apology was heartfelt, Priebus said.
    The RNC will keep working with the trump campaign as they have been, and nothing has changed. The two entities are in full coordination, Priebus added.