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Explained: Why the departure of adviser Kellyanne Conway matters for Trump

Kellyanne Conway’s decision to leave the White House comes after her daughter criticised her on social media, saying her mother’s job had ‘ruined her life’.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 25, 2020 10:32:26 pm
Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conwaydaughter, Kellyanne Conway white house, George Conway, Kellyanne Conway husband, who is Kellyanne Conway, indian express , express explainedWith Trump’s election, Conway became the first woman to manage a successful bid for the top office in the US. (Photo: AP)

Conservative strategist Kellyanne Conway, considered among US President Donald Trump’s most influential advisors, announced Sunday that she planned to leave the White House next week, to spend more time with her four teenaged children. Her husband George Conway, a fierce Trump critic, also said he would be withdrawing from The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group he co-founded.

In a statement, Kellyanne Conway said, “We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids,” adding that she wanted the children to have “less drama, more mama”.

The decision came after one of their daughters, aged 15, publicly criticised Kellyanne on social media. On Sunday, Claudia Conway wrote that her mother’s job had “ruined (her) life” and criticised the latter’s decision to speak at the Republican National Convention, which began Monday.

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Trump and the Conways

A prominent pollster who has worked on several elections in the US, 53-year-old Kellyanne Conway has known Trump since his days as a New York-based real estate developer, and was consulted by Trump in 2011 for a presidential bid he was considering then.

During the 2016 election, Conway initially supported the presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas, but joined Trump’s team after Cruz dropped out of the race. Working for Trump, she first acted as a senior advisor and then as campaign manager– becoming the first woman to manage a successful bid for the top office in the US.

After the election victory, Conway was appointed senior counsellor to Trump, and ardently defended him on American television – winning admiration from the President and his family members.

She has also frequently invited controversy. In 2017, soon after Trump was inaugurated, Conway famously defended contested data on the number of attendees at the swearing-in ceremony as “alternative facts”. Conway has also been criticised for alleged ethics violations, and was called a “repeat offender” last year by The Office of Special Counsel, a US government oversight agency.

Her husband George Conway, however, has a strikingly different attitude towards Trump. From being a supporter and considered for a position in the Trump administration, Conway has gone on to become a fierce critic, and has publicly accused the leader of having a narcissistic personality disorder.

George is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a political group formed by present and former Republicans whose mission is to stop Trump from getting re-elected. Trump has called George Conway “incompetent” and a “stone cold loser”.

Why Kellyanne Conway’s departure is significant

Since Trump came to power in 2016, many appointees to powerful positions in his administration have left at a rate that has been described as unusually high in American politics– even top positions such as White House Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor have seen multiple replacements. According to a Brookings study, as of August 14, 91 per cent of the most influential posts have turned over since Trump took office.

It is in such an environment that Conway managed to survive and wield a high degree of influence. According to a New York Times report, Conway was able to maintain her sway despite efforts to undermine her by the likes of Trump’s powerful son-in-law Jared Kushner and ultra-right strategist Steve Bannon. Conway in recent times has attended all of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force briefings, the report said.

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Experts believe that Conway’s departure comes at an unsuitable time for Trump, who had gained from her expertise during the 2016 election, and is currently trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls for the November race.

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