Trump Brings In New Campaign Manager; Clinton Foundation Sets New Donor Rules
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Donald Trump changed campaign managers again as his poll numbers decline. The Clintons say their foundation's done nothing wrong. Just in case, they'll stop doing it. And the Obama administration faces new questions about any link between pallets of cash to Iran and the release of U.S. hostages. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Paul Manafort was either pushed or he chose to leap off the campaign train. Donald Trump's brought in this duo Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. What do you think this signals?
ELVING: It sends mixed signals, really, Scott. Steve Bannon is the guy with the scorched earth kind of reputation - scorched earth at breitbart.com, where he's been. He's a veteran of the media wars where his reputation is perhaps that of General Sherman in the Civil War. He kind of tends to push the limit and beyond. No story to speculative.
SIMON: General Sherman won.
ELVING: (Laughter) He did.
SIMON: As two guys from Illinois, we remember that.
ELVING: Yeah. He has - he has a certain reputation, though, in how he went about it. Kellyanne Conway, on the other hand, is a much more conventional kind of a political strategist among conservatives. She's best known as a pollster, really. And a lot of people are giving her credit for getting Donald Trump to say he had regrets this week, although perhaps too few to mention.
SIMON: (Laughter) The polls for Donald Trump are discouraging. The election isn't for another 79 days, but early voting starts in October. Are there enough battleground states left for Donald Trump to win?
ELVING: Yes, but he can't let any more of them get taken off the table. He really needs to win the four where his ads are running right now this week in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, plus a few more. But, you know, we've got almost 11 weeks to go, and this has been a highly volatile campaign year.
SIMON: Clinton Foundation announced it won't accept corporate and foreign donations if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Bill Clinton would step down from the board. Now, is this a way of saying, we've done everything right, but just in case, we'll change it?
ELVING: Yes, that's a pretty good way of describing it. You could say that they're trying to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, which they have not been so fussy about before. That would be a Clinton-friendly interpretation. A more hostile view would be that the damage has been done, and influence has been peddled and bought. And so they're rather slamming the barn door after the horse has been stolen.
SIMON: The Obama administration, in which, of course, Hillary Clinton served, faces skeptical questions about airlifting $400 million of cash to Iran to coincide with Iran releasing four Americans jailed there. Now, the administration says it was repaying a debt that had been agreed to. This was not a ransom payment for hostages. Does the timing differ from what they said at first?
ELVING: Yes. The timing does, but this has been more about semantics than timing right from the beginning. We should remember that this was Iranian money that had been impounded in the United States for decades after the revolution that overthrew the shah. And secondly, it was part of a much larger negotiation with Iran over weapons programs and other issues. So, in that sense, it differs from other hostage-type situations. So it would possibly be oversimplifying to simply call it a ransom for hostages, but we are in a campaign year.
SIMON: So does it become a campaign issue?
ELVING: Anything that comes up at this point becomes or potentially becomes some kind of campaign issue. The very fact that we're talking about it means that it's an issue. And in campaigns - presidential campaigns, especially - the candidates are a little bit like water skiers, Scott. They want the water to be smooth, and anything that suddenly comes to the surface is potentially a hazard.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so (laughter) - thanks so much for being with us, and good skiing to you, my friend.
ELVING: My pleasure, Scott. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.