President Trump's reelection campaign is moving chief operating officer Michael Glassner to spearhead legal affairs in the four-month homestretch to November's general election. His new role comes as Mr. Trump's approval numbers have taken a tumble and the president's first rally in three months attracted a smaller crowd than expected.
The Tulsa event, in a heavily Republican area of the country where Mr. Trump is very popular, drew just over 6,200 guests, according to the Tulsa fire marshal's office, falling far short of the "1 million RSVPs" touted by the Trump campaign.
Last month, senior adviser to the Trump campaign Jared Kushner and campaign manager Brad Parscale both pointed out to Mr. Trump that they are not "strategists," amid concerns the campaign lacks an overall reelection strategy, sources familiar tell CBS News.
But it was Glassner — a longtime Trump ally and original member of the president's 2016 shoestring primary bid — who took the fall, since he plays a significant role in coordinating rally logistics.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh defended the timing of Glassner's reassignment.
"This is not a reaction to Tulsa. Michael Glassner is moving into the long-term role of navigating the many legal courses we face, including suits against major media outlets, some of which will likely extend beyond the end of the campaign," Murtaugh said in a statement to CBS News. "He is one of the founding members of Team Trump and his dedication to the success of the President is unmatched."
During the, the campaign distributed masks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks to attendees but did not require or encourage social distancing within the arena. In fact, stickers promoting social distancing and provided by the campaign rally's venue — the BOK Center— were subsequently removed by campaign staff. Eight campaign staffers tested positive for COVID-19 in Tulsa, while the rest in attendance quarantined in the week that followed. Days later, President Trump spoke at a crowded church in Arizona amid a coronavirus surge. Few attendees wore masks and temperature checks were not required at the door.
Jeff DeWit, the president's 2016 Arizona chair, will replace Glassner as chief operating officer while the campaign rethinks its own mega-events in the run up to Election Day, hoping to avoid the embarrassment of another sparsely filled venue.
The president is eager to return to campaign rallies, his preferred avenue for connecting with his base and blowing off steam miles away from the White House.
Amid reports the president nixed a planned campaign trip to Alabama this month, campaign officials have yet to announce any official travel plans for the commander-in-chief. "We don't ever confirm where we're looking until a rally date and location are announced. There is always work underway to identify sites," Murtaugh said. A spokesperson for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said while she was unaware of any confirmed plans, "President Trump is welcome to campaign in the state of Alabama any time."
The president heads to South Dakota this week for a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore in his official White House capacity. "We will not be social distancing," South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem told Fox News Monday night. Thousands of people expected to attend the July 3 celebration for Independence Day will be offered an optional mask.