Donald Trump’s campaign manager is convinced he was one of the normal ones.
Day two of the January 6th Committee’s public hearings focused on demonstrating that Trump and his inner circle knew that they were perpetrating a fraud on the public. They proved that not only was there no evidence to back up the claims undergirding the Big Lie, but that Trump and his team knew there was no evidence, but proceeded forward in their attempt to overturn the election result anyway.
During this testimony an internal division emerged within the Trump team. Group A—we’ll call them the Ultra-Coup crowd—was led by an “apparently inebriated” Rudy Giuliani (redundant?) and his crack(en) team of legal eagles and pillow profiteers. Much ink has already been spilled in these pages about those traitorous twits.
But today’s testimony came from Group B, which was made-up of the actual political and legal professionals around Trump who knew full well that he had lost, told him as much, and then tried to slowly back away from the runaway dumpster fire to the extent that was practicable.
This group was represented by Trump’s deadbeat dad spokesperson Jason Miller, Jivanka, and his 5th campaign manager, Bill Stepien. Stepien dubbed this group “Team Normal” during his testimony.
I didn’t mind being categorized. There were two groups. We called them kind of my team and Rudy’s team. I-I- didn’t mind being characterized as being part of team normal as reporters kind of started to do around that point in time. I said hours ago, early on, that I’ve been doing this for a long time. Twenty-five years and I’ve spanned political ideologies from Trump to McCain to Bush to Christie. I can work under a lot of circumstances for a lot of varied candidates and politicians but, a situation where—I think along the way, I’ve built up a pretty good—I hope—reputation for being honest and professional. I didn’t think what was happening was necessarily honest or professional at that point in time that led to me stepping away.
Team Normal. How about that for some self-flattery.
Bill Stepien spent 5 years watching Donald Trump’s cruelty, pathological duplicity, irrationality, narcissistic personality disorder, buffoonery, and criminality. After that half-decade of evidence, this “professional” decided to accept a role as the campaign manager for Trump’s flagging re-election campaign.
And he didn’t just take some arm’s length consultancy providing powerpoint decks from the comfort of a Cape May beach house. He chose to sit in the big-boy chair as the man-child responsible for getting Trump four more years in power.
When he made that decision, at some level he knew—because we all knew, because Trump told us—that were his boss to lose, he wouldn’t go quietly into the night. He knew that Trump would go all manner of lengths to keep his grip on power, democracy be damned.
And yet on election night 2020, as this fate was coming to pass, Bill Stepien testified that he advised the president to give a measured statement about how it’s “too early to tell.” He wanted Trump to be dignified about how the team was “proud of the race we ran” and close by offering that he would have “more to say” after the votes came in.
Are you shitting me, Bill?
You thought Donald J. Trump was going to be gracious?
That was never going to happen. Anyone who is not either a pea-brained imbecile or a Rudy-amount-of-scotches into the bag knew it could never happen.
So after Trump rejected Stepien’s “advice” and went in front of the cameras to allege a “fraud on the American public,” what did Stepien do?
During videotaped testimony to the January 6 Committee, Bill said that in the days after the election he “stepped away” from the crazy because he is “honest,” and thus couldn’t be a part of it.
I found Stepien’s testimony interesting as I didn’t recall Trump’s campaign manager distancing himself from the claims of fraud during the fraught days following the election. So what did “stepping away” entail, exactly, for Stepien?
Did he resign in protest? Did he go to the press with all the evidence that his boss was deluded? Did he call cabinet officials to tell them to consider the 25th Amendment? Did he go to Congress, like Chris Krebs? Did he testify against his boss at the impeachment hearings?
No. No. No. Nope. Uh-uh.
Bill and “Team Normal” did their stepping away “behind the scenes,” as Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported. Stepien “didn’t want it widely known” that he disagreed with the party line.
So in other words, “Team Normal” wasn’t functionally any different from the “Ultra-Krakens.” They just didn’t want to get their hands dirty. They had professional reputations to keep.
Because Fortune 500 companies don’t hire demented loons spittling at the cameras outside a landscaping business. But they might still bring on a “normal” “professional” who sat in silence as the world burned. He’s a team player!
“Team Normal” is the latest example of a delusion that was ingrained deep within the Republican ruling class during the Trump era. It was filled with, as I categorized them in Why We Did It, “messiahs” and “junior messiahs” who told themselves they were one of the good ones, trying to nudge things in the right direction—from the inside. In this perverted mindset, the crazier things got, the more it proved that their nudging would be needed the next time things got out of hand. And so they soldiered on. Again and again and again.
But the story the messiahs are telling themselves ain’t the truth. They weren’t nudging Trump along with them, Trump was nudging them along with him. They were dupes being used to provide cover for the crazy anytime the Wall Street Journal came calling.
Bill Stepien wasn’t on “Team Normal.” He was on “Team Coup.” After the election he just decided to move back to the jump seats rather than keep riding shotgun, so as to protect his career.
If you need any more evidence this is the case, do you know what job Bill Stepien took, after the crazy he presided over had passed?
Stepien is now consulting for Harriet Hageman, the fellow confederate, who was a former Never Trumper but who is now primarying Liz Cheney for the crime of speaking truths that she, and Stepien both know.
In Stepien’s view the bad actor that needed to be punished wasn’t Rudy and the rest of Team Crazy. It was Liz Cheney, for holding his manhood cheap, and saying publicly everything he knew to be true in private. For being not only on Team Normal, but on Team Courage and Team Democracy.
Stepien had the opportunity to do what Cheney did. He could’ve lived up to his obligations, and demonstrated that he was the honest professional he thinks himself to be.
But he chose not to. He chose Team Coup. He should get no credit for the lack of fervency with which he defended his team, because there’s no such thing as half-way crooks.