UPDATE: Trump campaign fires Virginia chair after RNC protest
(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.”
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.