In an interview with radio talk show host John Fredericks—himself a co-chairman of the Trump Campaign in Virginia—the two top Trump staff in Virginia lambasted 2017 Gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart for putting his own ambitions ahead of those of the GOP nominee and his chances to win Virginia.
A full transcript and audio of the interview are below. In it, the staffers, Mike Rubino and Mark Lloyd, pull no punches in describing Stewart’s tumultuous tenure as Virginia Chairman of the Trump campaign before he was unceremoniously fired from that job after organizing and leading a protest at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee.
Among numerous complaints about Stewart’s misplaced priorities, the trio of senior Trump aides in Virginia singled out a story that emerged in the closing weeks of the campaign that the Trump campaign had pulled out of Virginia. This story, they claim, was completely false and was instead a narrative pushed by Corey Stewart to give him a way to attack the RNC as a campaign ploy for himself.
According to Rubino, the false story about the campaign leaving Virginia “pushed one person’s narrative, which was that the RNC was bad. In fact, we were working hand-in-glove with the RNC, which is what I told Corey countless times. And you are correct, that story killed us. It was a kill shot.”
Fredericks elaborated by saying that, from almost the beginning of the campaign—when it had been made clear to Stewart that he was not to commence a run for Governor while serving as Trump chairman—he began to violate that pledge. He “put the needs of his gubernatorial campaign distinctly ahead of the Trump effort to win Virginia, and at the end, Corey Stewart’s antics, and what he did, gave us no opportunity to win the state at the end based on what went down.”
This estrangement with Stewart was apparently a long time coming, and not just a product of the RNC protest. At Martha Boneta’s Liberty Farm Festival, where Stewart spoke as the Trump Chairman at the time, he was not even allowed to speak with or greet Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence, and was instead kept completely out of the backstage area for fear of him using the event as a stunt for his own campaign.
In the end, Rubino summed up their sentiment by encouraging Trump supporters to look elsewhere for a candidate for Governor next year, citing the “net negative” contributions of Stewart, compared to the positive contributions made by his opponents, Ed Gillespie and Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach).
The audio of the interview, and an exclusive transcript of the segment, are below.
The full transcript of the piece is below:
John Fredericks: Look we got the three people on the air right now who were integrally involved in what happened in that campaign. Let’s start with Mike Rubino.
Mike Rubino: Well, if I can be candid with you…
John Fredericks: You’re on The John Fredericks Radio Network…trucking the truth, the king of candor, the commander of common sense. Go ahead.
Mike Rubino: Well, Corey Stewart was fired. As the only chairman, honorary chairman, around the country to be released by the Trump campaign. And that’s really why I’m here, why I came down. To remind people that he did do something horribly egregious to the president-elect. He did something that we paid dearly for. If you look at these…and I don’t mean to blame our loss here on one person, however, if you’re looking for an establishment or moderate voter, you certainly don’t want to go to the RNC and call people ‘pukes.’…I don’t think that endears us to any soccer moms. So there are reasons as to why we did what we did. And what he did was horrible, especially considering the president-elect has chosen Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff Could anyone be more out of touch with reality?
Mark Lloyd: We had actually two really standing orders. And those two standing orders were, number one, win Virginia. Number two, bring the party together. And those are the two things we worked through the entire time. And there was just difficulty in making that happen when Corey did several of the things he did.
Mike Rubino: And John, you were a wonderful spokesman. You were out there pushing our message consistently and doing a phenomenal job staying on that message. The opposite—the reciprocal—of that, is what we had with Corey Stewart. And you were constantly defending Corey Stewart. Now, do you feel like, as spokesman for the Trump campaign here in Virginia, that that should have been your job? Defending someone?
John Fredericks: No.
Mike Rubino: No, you should have been promoting then-candidate Trump’s message to the voters here in the Commonwealth, and you weren’t able to do that because you were constantly defending some indefensible comment [from Corey Stewart].
John Fredericks: Yes, and back to what Mark Lloyd said to us, what he said to us—over and over—that the objective was to win Virginia and unite people and bring the party together, and Corey Stewart’s antics and behavior was counter to that almost every single step of the way. And you’re right, I mean I spent a lot of time cleaning up after him, comments he would make on Facebook that were absolutely offensive and ridiculous and had nothing to do with gaining votes in Virginia for Trump. You know the other thing that I will want to bring and, and look…
Mark Lloyd: And I have a little flavor for you as well, but you go first.
John Fredericks: Well, I’ll go first, but again, we’re not going to put the blame of losing Virginia on anybody. At the end of the day, we’re all accountable for that, the three of us. But look, we never recovered from the false, fake news report that the campaign was pulling out of Virginia. We never recovered from that.
Mike Rubino: Which pushed one person’s narrative, which was that the RNC was bad. In fact, we were working hand-in-glove with the RNC, which is what I told Corey countless times. And you are correct, that story killed us. It was a kill shot.
John Fredericks: That…we spent weeks. I personally went on 32 different networks and try to explain that was just false. But here’s the bottom line, Mike. What was so devastating with that was that the false narrative—the genesis of it—was Corey Stewart. Right?
Mike Rubino: Deciding that the RNC was how he should, you know, leap frog to run for Governor. That he could campaign against the establishment while my candidate, the person that I’ve worked for for 15 months, was actually using the RNC’s get-out-the-vote operation, data, and everything else. We’ve…you know the RNC worked in Trump Tower with us. So the narrative he was trying to push was so ridiculous and laughable. But to do that, and to take that one step further, the way he did, to say we were pulling out of Virginia…we were simply reallocating a few staffers to North Carolina, a critical state…
John Fredericks: For a few days!!
Mike Rubino: And let’s be honest. North Carolina is a firewall state. That’s far more important, winning North Carolina than winning Virginia, because we saw the polls…
John Fredericks: Right.
Mike Rubino: …we knew that this was a harder state to win, that we had to win over more establishment-oriented people who I think at this point are very happy with the president-elect.
Mark Lloyd: And I’ve said it to several of the volunteers, that were disgruntled, that Virginia was our Alamo. We fought here, and the Clinton people had pulled out. And all of a sudden we started making enough headway and all of that and they came back.
John Fredericks: Well that was devastating, and that narrative, it was a false fake narrative and it was advanced by Corey Stewart, by NBC calling him up, and he’d already been fired as chairman. He had no authorization…
Mike Rubino: And he did 20 interviews after that!
John Fredericks: And he did 20 interviews and all the interviews were false, and he was blaming the RNC that Trump was pulling out of Virginia. Look, we knew we had a $2 million ad buy coming down the pike in the next two weeks, but we weren’t in a position to tip our hand to tell Terry McAuliffe what was happening. So the whole strategy at the end got completely screwed up and turned upside down by one guy.
Mike Rubino It got screwed up because he was running for Governor. Let’s be honest. He was running for Governor while my boss was running for the presidency.
John Fredericks: Right.
Mike Rubino: I’ll tell you a little inside flavor. Mark Lloyd and I sat at our office in Glen Allen. This was December 2015, and we talked to Corey about joining our campaign as chairman. It was conditional on the fact that, one, he would stick to our talking points, and two, he would not run for Governor until November 9, 2016, if he decided to run for Governor.
Mike Rubino: Well in August we found, I woke up one morning to see a campaign logo on Facebook for Corey’s Governor’s race. This was on top of, you know, countless other things that he did which hurt Mr. Trump’s candidacy, both in Virginia but, you know, it also hurts the Republican brand. Because in order to win in a state like Virginia, which is blue—or purple at best right now—we have to make inroads to people like the Democrats do.
John Fredericks: Right. Well, he looked us in the eye in Glen Allen, as I said, an important thing. He looked us in the eye and said he was going to put the presidential campaign ahead of his gubernatorial race, right?
Mark Lloyd: That’s correct.
Mike Rubino: Could we give someone a better gift…to be Donald Trump’s chairman in Virginia? That’s like putting a bow on the Governor’s race.
John Fredericks: No…We gave him the gift, and almost from the first day out of the box he violated that. Almost from the first day…
Mike Rubino: Correct.
John Fredericks: ..and put the needs of his gubernatorial campaign distinctly ahead of the Trump effort to win Virginia, and at the end Corey Stewart’s antics, and what he did, gave us no opportunity to win the state at the end based on what went down. It was a complete disaster. I’ll tell you, Mike…I’ll tell you something else. I mean, at one time they talked about getting rid of him, and I lobbied to keep him because I just didn’t want any trouble.
Mike Rubino: And you’re a good friend.
John Fredericks: I’m a friend, and I lobbied…we don’t need any turnover, we’ve got a good shot here. When they fired him they never called me…New York never called me. They just fired him and I found out in the media, and then they called me afterward and said, number one, they wanted to keep me clean and out of it, and number two, we didn’t want you to argue with us because the decision was made. They just fired him.
Mike Rubino: Listen, there were so many people that were helpful to our candidacy. Both Ed Gillespie was helpful—he campaigned twice with Mike Pence–and Frank Wagner was helpful. These were people that actually understood the necessity of winning Virginia but also that Virginia is a very complex and nuanced state. Corey was tone deaf to that the entire time but he was solely focused on running for Governor. And I implore every Trump voter out there to listen to us when we say we love Donald Trump, we worked for Donald Trump. Do not vote for Corey Stewart just because you think that he’s the heir apparent to Donald Trump.
John Fredericks: Well, that’s a pretty compelling thing to say. And look, the other thing about this, Mike, is that I talked to Ed Gillespie last night, right? And he said to me that Corey Stewart never picked up the phone and asked him one time to do anything to help us—not one time. Right? And that was a big deal, and you know, so the people that could say well Ed didn’t do anything yeah, I mean, Corey didn’t ask him, Corey didn’t want him involved, right? Because he was a rival running for governor.
Mike Rubino: Ed did campaign with Mike Pence…TWICE, in Harrisonburg and in Fairfax, so I think that’s a laughable narrative as well, that’s probably going to be pushed, and I will do everything in my power to fight back against that. And Frank Wagner helped us in Virginia Beach.
John Fredericks: Look, facts matter, truth matters. If Corey wasn’t running for Governor we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If Corey wasn’t going around saying that he’s the heir apparent to the Trump movement, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because, I mean, he did do things to help us, but there was no question that the shenanigans that went on viz-a-viz his focus on his gubernatorial campaign was a disaster for us.
Mark Lloyd: Net negative.
John Fredericks: Net negative…so you would say, Corey Stewart, net negative?
Mark Lloyd: [Yep]
John Fredericks: Mike?
Mike Rubino: John Fredericks, net positive.
John Fredericks: Thank you. Appreciate it. John Fredericks, net positive. Corey Stewart, net negative.