By the spring of this year, it was clear that Americans were heading into one of the ugliest, most consequential and often bizarre presidential campaigns in memory. Donald Trump would become the improbable Republican nominee, and Democrat Hillary Clinton the first woman to head a major-party ticket. Their clash challenged Americans to confront divisions over race, gender, ideology and our very national identity. This is how the race unfolded, as retold by the people who lived it. This oral history is based on four dozen on-the-record interviews with campaign advisers and other key players, conducted during the final two weeks.

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May 3, 2016

Trump wins the Indiana primary and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) quits the race, making Trump the effective GOP nominee. The Trump campaign begins to size up Clinton and seeks to broaden his appeal.

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

Trump views Hillary Clinton as the personification of what’s rotten in Washington. He really does make the connection between the rigged system, as he calls it, the corruption of Washington, the gridlock of Washington and the all-talk, no-action approach that Washington takes. . . . His point was that the opponent was more than just Hillary. She was the symbol.

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

There was maybe a 14-day period where she lost eight to nine contests, I believe, to Bernie Sanders. And I studied that and I thought, she’s going to have a real problem here because she’s somebody who’s always caught unaware. She was caught unaware by Barack Obama in 2008. She seemed to be caught unaware of Bernie Sanders’s surge. . . . And we could catch her unaware again.

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

The narrative was already baked in. That was the beauty of her. In most campaigns, you’re trying to define a candidate. She was defined as someone that people don’t like and don’t trust, and all we had to do was reinforce the existing narrative.

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

I always thought about prosecuting the case against Hillary Clinton very directly. The “Crooked Hillary,” the “drain the swamp,” those types of things which have become a little bit of slogans of the campaign are things that Republican conservatives for the last 20 years have really said, and maybe using different words, but they had never been able to get them to stick.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

I just never have seen her as somebody who takes risks. And Donald Trump does take risks. And although his gets covered as being reckless, people like a risk taker. And Barack Obama is a risk taker. Bill Clinton is a risk taker.

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

Trump has lots of weaknesses but he has a fearlessness borne out of authenticity. And that of course forces him occasionally to do things the rest of us can’t figure out because he thinks that’s what authenticity commands.

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

This is not your normal election. This is a political revolution. . . . They see this as the answer to something that’s been festering for years and years and years. They know something’s wrong. They know their government has not been straight with them. They know the middle class has been left behind. They also know, why do we have all these billionaires and why as a working man am I so poor?

Donald Trump, with daughter Ivanka Trump, left, and wife Melania Trump, addresses the media at Trump Tower following primary election results on May 3 in New York. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

Trump is a remarkable entrepreneurial personality. The entrepreneurial personalities find it very hard to operate in corporate environments. Look at Steve Jobs. . . . And also, he had no habit of having to be disciplined and having to be aware of the fact that both his opponents and the news media would be watching every word and every gesture and will be digging through his past at levels that would be inevitably embarrassing.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

He was comfortable with the success he had had in the rally approach and he didn’t see a need to change. My pitch to him was that we had to expand beyond the base he had in the primaries and we had to bring in establishment types, and the way to do that would be through presentation. Formulating speeches on policy that he would give off a teleprompter.

Phil Ruffin

Las Vegas business mogul and Donald Trump friend

Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin

Las Vegas business mogul and Donald Trump friend

You can give him all the advice you want, but he goes with his own instincts.

When it becomes clear that Trump will be the nominee, the fissures within the GOP grow deeper and the campaign struggles to unify party leaders.

Ron Kaufman

member of the Republican National Committee, former adviser to Mitt Romney and the Bush family, and Donald Trump supporter

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman

member of the Republican National Committee, former adviser to Mitt Romney and the Bush family, and Donald Trump supporter

I was caught in the middle between a lot of good friends who were in the Stop Trump movement, including people very close to me, and my belief that he won fair and square. It’s not about those folks who feel that way; it’s about the millions and millions of people who voted for Trump. The party had to get behind him.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

The sooner that we all got on the same page, the higher likelihood we would have of winning. . . . Trump was obviously very skeptical of the party and the RNC, so making sure that he and his team fully understood the capabilities that we had was crucial.

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

I knew that [Republican National Committee Chairman] Reince [Priebus] was under no illusions about what Trump represented and what Trump’s nomination would mean. . . . That was the beginning of the collapsing of that distinction and Reince Priebus going all in for Donald Trump. Reince was not until that day a Trump Republican. I was disappointed.

Katie Packer

founder of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, and deputy manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

Katie Packer

Katie Packer

founder of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, and deputy manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

What do you do when the party that you’ve committed your whole adult life to goes in a direction like this? Do you acquiesce and bend the knee? Or do you say, “No, I can’t do it”?

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

He saw the value of [House Speaker Paul] Ryan being on the outside of where Trump wanted the campaign to go. He viewed Ryan to be part of what’s wrong with Washington, too. . . . I felt that while change was the main theme of the election, and he agreed with that, I felt that the face needed to be Hillary Clinton. . . . Because I knew, having looked at the data, that if we could keep the focus on Clinton, we win.

Russ Schriefer

Republican strategist and senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

Russ Schriefer

Russ Schriefer

Republican strategist and senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

I thought that he would have a very difficult time putting together the coalition that he would need to be president and that we were going to be in for a very long six months between Indiana and Election Day.

At the same time, the Clinton campaign, still battling Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) in the Democratic race, starts trying to figure out how to take on Trump.

Donald Trump addresses his supporters during a rally in Indianapolis in April. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

We know that there is a change versus more of the same dynamic that we don’t want to be in, but we do want to define the choice as the kind of country we’re going to be.

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

I definitely remember we had a lot of angst around, like, how do we handle Trump? Like, how do you get your arms around this situation? The media runs wild with him. They just set the camera in front of him live and let it roll for as long as he speaks.

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

Our big concern, of course, was that he would then morph into somebody else. I had heard things about him, such as he reacts with audiences in front of him . . . So the concern, well, if he gets in front of a general-election audience, is he going to moderate?

Teddy Goff

Hillary for America chief digital strategist

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Hillary for America chief digital strategist

I always thought that he was the ideal Republican nominee. . . . The nomination of Trump was going to make this a battle about racism, misogyny, homophobia and dealing with immigrants. That’s not even getting into the core stability of our opponent.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

The most useful research was talking to people who know him. . . . John [Podesta] talked to a lot of people. [Christina] Reynolds talked to a lot of people. Jake [Sullivan] talked to a lot of people. I talked to a lot of people. I personally found the most useful Tony Schwartz, the guy who wrote “The Art of the Deal.” . . . I asked him, “Can he reinvent who he is? Can he morph into somebody else?” He asked me, “For how long?” And I said, “Six months.” . . . He says, “Six days, maybe. But six months, there’s just no way.”

Christina Reynolds

Hillary for America deputy communications director

Christina Reynolds

Christina Reynolds

Hillary for America deputy communications director

What we found a lot of was sort of what makes him tick, what gets under his skin, what he is most sensitive about. He’s sensitive about his wealth. . . . He’s sensitive about his intelligence. You hear it a lot: “I went to Wharton. I went to the best schools.”

John Podesta

Hillary for America campaign chairman

John Podesta

John Podesta

Hillary for America campaign chairman

There’s no question, I think, that [Trump] represents change. But the question is: What kind of change? And I think we put a lot into the argument that the country would succeed by rejecting that set of values which are based on division, on bigotry, on things he had said along the way, on his sort of history of abusing people.

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

We began to look to see what is the shape or scope of his policy agenda. It was pretty shapeless and scopeless other than sort of his big bombastic statements. What was clear was if you try to have a traditional debate with him on a particular issue — whether it be tax policy, or infrastructure, or working families’ issues, or even in national security — you can have it. But you’d be missing the fundamental point of what was really happening here.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

We were always paranoid about leaving the economic argument off to the side. . . . Even to this day we struggle with: How much do we talk about his crazy tax plan that gives people tax-free schemes versus just saying like, “This man will have the nuclear codes and we could all be vaporized?”

PORTSMOUTH, NH - Senior Staffer Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook watch Democratic Presumptive Nominee for President former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a rally at Portsmouth High School Gymnasium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s campaign vice chairman, and Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, at a rally in Portsmouth, N.H. in July. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Brian Fallon

Hillary for America national press secretary

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Hillary for America national press secretary

We weren’t going to be able to predict whatever maelstrom we would encounter on a day-to-day basis. But if we had some principles that we were following and adhering to a North Star . . . we wouldn’t be making it up as we went along.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

Joel [Benenson] and [Jim] Margolis and I met in Margolis’s office in April to have our first planning meeting about the convention. . . . What we had seen in the research — the notion that he was unfit to be president, however you put that — was the most important conclusion. . . . The two biggest parts of that had to do with his temperament and what that would mean for our national security. . . . The second was his divisiveness and the hateful things he had said about virtually every group in this country. . . . Both those things were well outside the norms for a Republican candidate. . . . The third category was economics.

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Hillary for America chief digital strategist

I recall a senior staff retreat where that frame was presented to the state leadership who were on the phone. There was this silent, momentary reaction. He put the phone on mute and said they’re not buying it. . . . That was the moment when we realized bad on economy, bad on foreign policy, too divisive was not sufficient because it was a broader case. The guy is nuts.

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

His notion that he is a great businessman is total [expletive] because he is really a flop over and over again. But you could not convince people of that because they know he is wealthy. He is flying around in a plane with his name on it.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

So we decided there were arguments that we needed to pursue because they would be meaningful for voters. Then there were arguments that we should pursue that voters would never care about but would provoke him. That is the lane on questions about, is he really that successful or is his dad the one that got him started?

Guy Cecil

chief strategist of Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC

Guy Cecil

Guy Cecil

chief strategist of Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC

We did video tests where we showed voters 40 different clips of Trump speaking — not ads, but just clips of him insulting a disabled reporter, a clip of him insulting Rosie O’Donnell. . . . Regardless of how we tested it — a full-out test, a clip test, online, regular survey, in-person focus group — the two things that consistently stuck out were the issue around his divisiveness and the issue around him being a danger to national security. . . . Mocking the disabled reporter was by far the top-testing clip. And, by the way, that stayed true through the whole campaign.

June 2, 2016

In mid-May, Clinton starts to lay out the case against Trump, calling him “unfit” in an interview. Two weeks later, in San Diego, she delivers a long, blistering attack on Trump as unfit to be commander in chief.

Hillary Clinton delivers a national security speech in San Diego in June, attacking Trump as unfit to be president. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

We knew from our research we wanted to get to the point where we labeled him unfit and unqualified. But the question was, do we come out and say it? Does she come out and say it in her first interview on this subject? Is that too much, too soon?

Christina Reynolds

Christina Reynolds

Christina Reynolds

Hillary for America deputy communications director

We had this mealy mouthed answer in there that we all agreed to as step one. We got on the phone and Jen [Palmieri] and others are taking her through the prep and we get to that question and someone explained the three-step process and she said, “No, we’re just going to say it. He is not fit to be president, and we’re just going to say it.” . . . There have been moments throughout this campaign where her being a badass is a nice galvanizing moment for all of us. It’s like, right on. You should call him that.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

A pretty critical moment in the evolution of our thinking about how to take on the Trump phenomenon was the San Diego speech. . . . It began as a much more traditional foreign policy contrast speech. As I and as the secretary and others read drafts of the speech, we all sort of came to the conclusion: This is all true but it’s not the truth. It’s not getting to the heart of why we so vigorously object to Donald Trump presenting himself as a potential commander in chief.

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

As we started digging into what Trump’s foreign policy approach really was and the things he had said, it was shocking to be reminded. You sort of get numb to this stuff, and then you put it all together in front of you and you’re like, “Oh, my God.” . . . The key to making the speech work in the end was — and this was natural for her as a lawyer, and lawyerly — was let his own words do the work.

She was really into this idea. She wanted to light him up, but she wanted to do it in a sober way that he couldn’t squirm out [of] because these are his words.

Matt Paul

Hillary for America senior adviser and chief of staff to vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Hillary for America senior adviser and chief of staff to vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine

The expectation was, “Why aren’t you as good an orator and politician as your husband and as your last boss?” which was constantly the story of crowds in rallies. . . . She would get frustrated. . . . She freely admitted this is not her forte. This is not her strength. She knows books about her are not going to be written about what a smooth, eloquent orator Hillary Clinton is.

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

The crowd ate it up in a way that you don’t hear. It was like there was a hunger. What I thought in listening to it, people have been hungry for someone to call this guy out. In the Republican primary, they had all danced around things. . . . No one had been able to land a clean shot on him.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

That national security speech gave us confidence that we could take him on, that she could use his words against him . . . [and] that that would be rewarded honestly by the media. We were nervous that it was, like, would she sound shrill? Would she be mean?

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

My immediate response was, let’s do a contrast . . . between what she projects could be under a president and commander in chief Donald Trump and what actually has been under Secretary of State [Clinton] and President Obama. . . . The fake red lines and Syria, obviously Benghazi.

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

After that speech, she was saying to me, “This speech needs more San Diego.” By that she meant both more of his words and a little punchier. She would come back to that again and again and say, “Okay, this is good, but let’s have a little more San Diego in here.”

Eight days later, Trump lashes out at U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel and suggests that his Hispanic heritage made him biased in a Trump University case.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

He was truly incensed with the judge. . . . It really bothered him that, again, here’s another example of the rigged system. The point that I was trying to make to him, “Regardless of whether you’re right or wrong, Donald, he’s not your opponent. . . . If we lose three days not being on message, it’s going to be costly to us.” He understood the intellectual part of the argument, totally understood it. But he just didn’t accept that it was the right thing to do.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[Trump and I] had one or two occasions where we were right at the edge of breaking the relationship. The judge was one example. . . . I just went on television and said, “This is nuts. This is exactly wrong. You cannot keep doing this stuff.” I was just tough as I knew how to be. . . . If I wanted him to learn something, the most effective thing was to do it on Fox [News Channel].

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

We were telling [Trump], “This is going to be one of the core instruments she uses against you to deal with your ability to be president. She can’t beat you on change, she can’t beat you on issues. She can only beat you on you’re not qualified to be president.”

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[Fox’s Sean] Hannity was unbelievably important behind the scenes. He was the one guy who could be very, very blunt with Trump. . . . Hannity and I were both trying to convince Trump that he absolutely had to become much more presidential.

By early June, both campaigns are having a similar conversation: What are their paths to victory?

David Simas

director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach

David Simas

David Simas

director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach

It’s an open question whether or not he can really begin to change the map, right? Can he put states in play that just haven’t been in play for Republicans? You could see Pennsylvania, especially Pennsylvania, becoming the linchpin of the entire reconfiguration of the map. . . . Certainly, you didn’t know what the dynamic was going to be in Michigan. . . . Obviously Ohio.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

We’ve always had a path to 270. . . . But it has been narrow. And it’s always been a little bit more straightforward and beholden to the same three or four states after my core four, after Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida. If you bank those, then we need some combination. . . .

Like most things here, team effort with Mr. Trump being the captain of the team no doubt . . . were obsessed — I’m obsessed, too — with Pennsylvania.

Elan Kriegel

Hillary for America director of analytics

Elan Kriegel

Elan Kriegel

Hillary for America director of analytics

We looked at the Obama map. Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia. . . . Early on in the race, we started seeing these things like, it’s odd, but Virginia’s not as competitive as we expected it to be, and Colorado, which could have been defined as a 270th electoral vote for Barack Obama in 2012 and in 2008, but it’s a little over-performing, and that seemed odd. The first person on our campaign to identify that was Matt Dover, who runs the voter analytics team, and he said, “I’m seeing this college/non-college split, and I don’t know what to make of it yet, but I think it might be real.”

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

It was clear even from the beginning that suburban women would be available to Clinton to a larger degree than even they were to Obama. . . . Trump probably gave you the chance for the biggest margin, but also there was a chance it would be too close for comfort just because he did have an appeal in certain parts of the electorate.

Marlon Marshall

Hillary for America director of states and political engagement

Marlon Marshall

Marlon Marshall

Hillary for America director of states and political engagement

Since day one of this campaign, we knew we needed to build a Clinton coalition. . . . It’s broadly people of color, women, millennials. . . . You’re seeing Latino voters, you’re seeing African American voters supporting the secretary, you have millennials. . . . And then you have college-educated voters. That is the new coalition.

July 5, 2016

One of the most critical and surprising days of the campaign. FBI Director James B. Comey announces that the Justice Department will not seek to prosecute Clinton for using a private email account when she was secretary of state, but says she was “extremely careless” in handling classified information.

FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Comey said the FBI will not recommend criminal charges in its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

In a statement at FBI headquarters in July, Director James B. Comey says the bureau will not recommend criminal charges in its investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

John Podesta

John Podesta

John Podesta

Hillary for America campaign chairman

We had a big day planned. She was addressing a convention of the National Education Association. We were about to go off with the president to North Carolina.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

[ABC’s George] Stephanopoulos texted me, calls me early in the morning and says, “Comey presser today?” I thought, it’s unusual for that guy to ever be doing a press conference. But it can’t be about us. She had just met with him on Saturday and this was Tuesday, right?

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

I was on the phone with David Simas at the White House. . . . We’re just talking and talking. I was really excited about the day and talking about the campaign, and then I looked out at the TV and I see Comey there. . . . [Simas] and I talked for another two minutes and then we both were like, “I think we should get off the phone.”

Jason Chaffetz

Republican congressman from Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Donald Trump supporter

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Republican congressman from Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Donald Trump supporter

I was headed to the airport and by the time I got to the Salt Lake airport, Mr. Comey was having a press conference making his announcement. There I was, boarding my flight, sitting in my seat, listening to the director, and for the first 12 minutes, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, he’s actually going to move toward an indictment.”

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

In my adult life, I’m not sure that I’ve hung on every word somebody is saying the way that I did at that moment. . . . I kept going, “Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. It is about to happen.”

Steven Ginsberg

senior politics editor at The Washington Post

Steven Ginsberg

Steven Ginsberg

senior politics editor at The Washington Post

I was at Trump Tower because he had banned us and I wanted to give him the chance to share his concerns about The [Washington] Post. It was Trump, Hope Hicks and me in his office when we got word that Comey was about to make an announcement about the Clinton investigation. So we go watch on a little TV in a nook outside his office. Ivanka and [her husband] Jared Kushner join. The more Comey talks, the more excited Trump gets. “This is big,” he says. “Don’t you think this is big?” As soon as it ends, Trump said something like: If she can’t keep her emails safe, she can’t keep the country safe. He got it right away and boiled it down to a bumper sticker that he repeated at a rally a couple of hours later.

Jim Margolis

Hillary for America senior adviser

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Hillary for America senior adviser

As I sat there, I was going through these moments of, like, this is going to be really, really bad. Oh, oh, oh, maybe not. Oh, yes, it is.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

First and foremost, we were just glad that it was resolved. Second of all, he was unequivocal that she had never intentionally done anything wrong, that there was clearly not enough evidence to bring a case. I would actually argue that it relieves an enormous amount of pressure on the campaign.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

I have the dual response I think everybody had, which was relief and anger. Anger that he would hold this press conference and essentially undermine the conclusion he’d reached by trash-talking her.

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Hillary for America national press secretary

We knew that we’d be living with the coloring of the situation based on his commentary as opposed to being able to feel vindicated with the outcome of the investigation.

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Hillary for America senior adviser

We still were pretty aware that every Friday at the end of the month, there were going to be more emails that were going to come out and the people were going to continue to push on it. So I don’t think anyone believed it was over.

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

This is the Fox News alternate reality that the current Republican Party is living in. That’s the problem. Emails, Benghazi, and the average swing voter in Virginia and Colorado has processed this. It may bother them or it may not, but it’s not going to drive the race.

Elan Kriegel

Elan Kriegel

Elan Kriegel

Hillary for America director of analytics

That was one of the toughest times for us. . . . That momentum coming into the weekend was gone. . . . We weren’t suddenly saying, “Let’s go spend money in Texas.” We were saying, “What are the core states most likely to get her over the hump and elect her president?”

Kristina Schake

Hillary for America deputy communications director

Kristina Schake

Kristina Schake

Hillary for America deputy communications director

On the issue of trust, it was really personally hurtful to [Clinton] and she wanted to have active conversations about how to deal with that. . . . She knew that we live in a different day and age where people expect a kind of immediacy, a kind of personal vulnerability, that you reveal yourself. And she knew that that’s not her nature. But she said, “That’s the times we live in and there are things I’m going to have to do that are a little outside my comfort.”

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

We were fuming. We all knew what happened. You could see right through it. The powers that be went to Comey and said, “If you want any future at all, you better get rid of this thing.”

Jason Miller

Donald J. Trump for President senior communications adviser

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Donald J. Trump for President senior communications adviser

You talk about the way that we see the thumb being put on the scale of this entire investigation into Hillary Clinton from the immaculate tarmac reception with Bill [Clinton] and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. . . . It’s this rigged-system feeling.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

[Comey’s] words were strong enough that we knew we had the building blocks for something that would be sustaining and long term. It just was sort of 10 degrees off perfect. It was like being told, “I love you, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I don’t want to marry you.”

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

On our side of the aisle, we don’t care that a corrupt administration through a corrupt Justice Department failed to indict a corrupt candidate. We just think that proves they’re all corrupt.

Katie Packer

Katie Packer

Katie Packer

founder of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, and deputy manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

At that point, I was like, my God, could Hillary Clinton lose to Trump? This is bad stuff. Could she actually have handed the election to this madman?

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Republican congressman from Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Donald Trump supporter

Upon landing, I actually had a good discussion with [Comey] . . . I said, “You know, I’m going to need you to come before our committee,” and he said, “Yeah, I thought you would want to do that.” I asked him, “Do you need a subpoena?” He said, “No, no, no, don’t do that. I’m happy to come.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07:  FBI Director James Comey testifies during a hearing before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 7, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing "Oversight of the State Department," focusing on the FBI's recommendation not to prosecute Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for maintaining a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

FBI Director James B. Comey testifies during a hearing before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in July. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

July 28, 2016

Trump comes out of the Republican National Convention feeling “sky high” and positioned to take the lead, Manafort says. But a week later, Khizr and Ghazala Khan provide the emotional high point of the Democratic National Convention with a condemnation of Trump.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

The reason that the Khans ended up emerging as people that we invited to the convention was because Hillary was giving a speech . . . in Minneapolis [in December 2015]. . . . The speech was on domestic radicalization. . . . We were looking for a closing to that speech.

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

I asked my team, one of my interns, Oren Fliegelman, to research Muslim American war heroes, because I wanted to lift up a story in the speech that could contrast with Trump’s Muslim ban. He brought me a list of four or five possible stories he found in clips. The one that stood out to me was the story of the Khans.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

When we were doing some of the initial convention planning and thinking about the various nights, it struck us that it would be incredibly powerful to have Mr. and Mrs. Khan stand up on behalf of their son [Army Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in action in Iraq in 2004] and on behalf of the values that they spoke about so passionately.

Khizr Khan, pictured with his wife, Ghazala Khan, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. The Khans’ son Humayun Khan, a U.S. Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Khizr Khan

father of fallen U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan and featured speaker at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Khizr Khan

Khizr Khan

father of fallen U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan and featured speaker at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

We consulted our other children. They warned us about political backlash from the other party, from Republicans. They told us, “Please, think it over and don’t hurriedly go there.” . . . While all of this was taking place, we had visited many times our friends and our relatives. When we go to their homes, their little children would come to me, because they know that I am an attorney. . . . The question would be the same: “Would we be thrown out?” These are Muslim children asking me. . . . That is why Mrs. Khan and I, against the advice of our other children, we decided that we will speak.

Waving the Constitution wasn’t part of the plan. . . . As we are leaving the room toward getting in the cab from the hotel, I put the coat on and we were advised to make sure that you don’t have any coins, any metal, change, or keys in your pocket; that it will take a very long time to clear with security. So I’m searching my pockets and I found an old copy. . . . I told Mrs. Khan, “Ghazala, I have this copy of the Constitution in my pocket. Do you think it will be advisable to pull it out when I say, ‘You have not read the Constitution?’ ” She said, “You must take permission.”

In the cab . . . she looked at me and her eyes welled. She said, “Do you think I will be able to speak a word when Humayun’s picture is in the background and they have just paid him a tribute?” I said, “Well, at least you stand beside me.” She said, “I’ll stand and I’ll be holding the podium so I don’t fall off and indignify the event or I begin to sob.”

We were now at the podium in the green room. The lights were on us. The producers were standing. This was the time that I take their permission if I could pull out the Constitution: “When I say, ‘Have you read the Constitution?’ can I pull it out and say that I will lend you my copy?”

Frank Greer

Democratic media strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter

Frank Greer

Frank Greer

Democratic media strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter

I said, “You mean you have a copy with you?” And he says, “Yes.” I said, “This is terrific.” . . . He pulled it out and it was a well-worn copy. . . . I walked out and said to [Jim] Margolis and Mandy [Grunwald], “There’s going to be something that happens tonight and it’s going to just capture the nation, and it’s the Khan family.”

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

[Mr. Khan] orchestrated the whole thing. . . . We knew he would be strong, and so we gave him a prominent 9 [o’clock] hour, the hour before [Hillary Clinton] spoke. . . . But the rest is alchemy and in his hands.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

I actually remember going upstairs [at home] and telling my wife, “Oh, my God, you just missed this.” It was an incredibly powerful, emotional moment. I said, “It’s going to be a real problem.”

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman

member of the Republican National Committee, former adviser to Mitt Romney and the Bush family, and Donald Trump supporter

I thought, this is staged. It was too produced. Having been behind the scenes a lot, I just felt he was not just the average parent of a fallen soldier. There was more to him that didn’t show. It all looked like a professional protest. It was too polished. But like everybody else, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t awed by the story.

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

The Khans mean nothing but a symbol of the Democrats coopting a family to do the embarrassing thing for the memory of their kid. That was so friggin’ wrong, and I’ll always feel that way. I don’t care if you’re a Gold Star parent.... That was disgusting and the press handled it like a bunch of connivers.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

The place erupted. It was at the heart of the argument we were making that night. Like, we are a country that is so great because of the principles in that Constitution. . . . My grandparents came to this country escaping pogroms in Russia, and you think I’m going to listen to you ever when you talk about banning people because of their religion? I mean, it is just so antithetical to who we are.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

I felt, okay, I understand where they’re going [with Mr. Khan’s speech]. He’s not relevant. We’ll just move on. I did not want to get involved in that issue. . . . The candidate disagreed, and he’s the boss.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[Mr. Khan’s speech] was a wonderful, intelligent trap. You take a guy who is totally them. You have him say things that are very offensive, which he did. And then the second that Trump responds, you’re pointing out that he’s attacking a Gold Star family. It was a great trap — and then Trump fell for it.

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Hillary for America chief digital strategist

Trump brought that on himself on Friday when he called [New York Times columnist] Maureen Dowd and explicitly hit Ghazala Khan and said, “I’d like to hear her talk.” Then on the Saturday morning he had an interview with [George] Stephanopoulos where he said it again. . . . I remember waking up on Saturday and seeing the Dowd column . . . and just thinking, you know, we got a live one.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

I said [to Trump], “First of all, we don’t need to do [the Stephanopoulos interview]. We’ve had a good week. Let’s just let this thing play out.” . . . He said, “No, no, George will be fine.” I said, “George is a Clintonite. He comes out of the Clinton campaign. Even if he’s a journalist, you just can’t trust where he’s going to go.” Trump said, “Nah, I can handle it.” . . . Okay, he’s going to do it. . . . As soon as the thing leaked out, I knew that it was a setup and I knew it was just going to get worse.

Ben Carson

retired neurosurgeon, former Republican presidential candidate and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

retired neurosurgeon, former Republican presidential candidate and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[Trump] was basically just responding to something that he thought was pretty obvious. But being a non-politician, he didn’t express to them in a correct way. That’s been a large part of his problem.

David Simas

David Simas

David Simas

director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach

That moment really crystallized [for Obama] the fitness for office. . . . The president was making the unfitness-for-office argument even prior to being on the stage in Philadelphia, but certainly after that. How do you attack a Gold Star family? . . . As the president said, “Come on, man.”

Katie Packer

Katie Packer

Katie Packer

founder of Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC, and deputy manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

[Trump] looks at that man and does not see an American, because in Donald Trump’s America, they’re all white people with blond hair and blue eyes — and that excludes an awful lot of people in this country that we need if we’re going to win general elections.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

I called [Trump]. I said, “First of all, I’m walking through airports and people are walking up to me, begging me to talk to you. You’ve got to quit doing this stuff. And second, some of your biggest supporters are telling me that they are about to cut you loose and help elect senators.” I said, “You need to understand how really dangerous this is.” . . . He goes through a whole thing about how they set him up, and it was unfair. . . . [I said,] “It’s Hillary Clinton. If you talk about anybody other than Hillary Clinton, you’re off message. Period.”

Everybody who knew him well was talking to him, but individually. Look, you can’t take a 70-year-old billionaire who has won the nomination against all odds and have an intervention. He’ll simply throw the whole group out.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

It allowed Clinton to continue the defining of Trump as a racist. It was the Mexican judge before and now it’s Muslims. It starts to build on the temperament issue. We worked really hard to get him off it, and again he felt that it was important for his vote base for him to not let somebody who he felt was a total political front to get away with being pious. . . . It was where I started to get nervous that making Hillary Clinton the focus of our campaign was going to be more difficult than we thought.

Aug. 17, 2016

Trump’s campaign struggles to recover from the Khan episode and Trump decides he needs another staff shake-up. He parts ways with Manafort and elevates Kellyanne Conway and hires Steven Bannon and David Bossie.

Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway (L) and Paul Manafort, staff of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speak during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Donald Trump’s campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Paul Manafort speak during a roundtable discussion on security at Trump Tower in New York. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

The numbers are dropping because of the Khizr Khan thing. . . . As I said to [Trump], “You don’t turn a ship on a dime, but the ship is turning.” The integration with the RNC was complete at that time, we had our state chairmen in all the right places, we had our county chairmen in all the right places, we had worked out our mail program and our microtargeting program, but he didn’t see all of that. He was dropping in the polls. He didn’t know how to stop it.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

Mr. Trump was clearly looking for a path to victory. When he made that change, he saw an opportunity that he was only going to get, like most people, once in your life and you have to really make the most of it. . . . The energy of the campaign, which was lacking over the summer — obviously the convention was a success as a show, but it didn’t reflect what needed to be reflected in building a machine to win on Election Day.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

He asked me if I can run this thing on August 12th, it was a Friday night. . . . One thing I said to him was, “Let’s see who Hillary Clinton is and what she’s doing. And let’s do what she won’t do and be where she’s not and can never be.” And I started out with the word “joyful.” In other words, I said to him, “You know you’re running against the most joyless candidate in presidential political history. . . . Are we campaigning or are we getting a root canal every day when she’s out there?” . . .

I said, “You’re starting to look like her.” [He said,] “No. I’m not.” And I said, “There it is. Yes, you are.”

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

Bannon came into play when Trump was in East Hampton at a fundraiser at Woody Johnson’s house and the Mercers, who we were trying to get to be more involved in the super PAC activities . . . really came down hard on Trump that they needed to have somebody dealing with the messaging that would take a more aggressive approach and they had somebody, Steve Bannon, that could do that.

[I resigned because] I felt Hillary had to be the focus, I felt I couldn’t be the focus. The Clintons found me as a tool to use for a broader message [about Trump’s ties to Russia]. . . . It wouldn’t stop, and it was becoming a real distraction.

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman

member of the Republican National Committee, former adviser to Mitt Romney and the Bush family, and Donald Trump supporter

He had three different types of teams and each one accomplished a purpose. The first team got him the nomination. You ask why? It’s because the people around him knew the tea party stuff, knew the populism stuff, and were smart enough to “let Donald be Donald.” . . . What the Manafort team did so well is deliver a convention. They got him more focused and more disciplined. . . . And then they brought in this new team, which was much more media savvy.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

We had the ability as a team to come in, not having anybody worrying about normal things, which is human nature, which is turf and who’s doing what and hierarchies and all that. We came in and really tried to work, which I think was a difference maker.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

I was honestly stunned that he would bring in Steve Bannon, who runs a, quote-unquote, “news organization” that is so divisive and that has written stories that are so bigoted and hateful.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

At that point, we were really frightened. That was the scariest. . . . I was the most anxious in thinking maybe America is just not the country I thought it was.

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - With Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri and Press Secretary Nick Merrill, at left, Robby Mook, Campaign Manager for Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaks to the traveling press corp aboard the campaign plane above Cedar Rapids, Iowa Friday October 28, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Robby Mook, pictured with Jennifer Palmieri and Nick Merrill, speaks to reporters on Hillary Clinton’s campaign plane above Cedar Rapids, Iowa in late October. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

It was when David Bossie joined that I just thought, okay, this is just the full axis of evil and just the world of haters — Clinton haters, obviously — but just a whole other thing than any kind of traditional Republican Party.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

That was the day I tweeted, “They’ve entered the hospice phase of the campaign: He’s dying and he wants to be surrounded by his loved ones.” I thought, this is not going to end well. This is Donald Trump going to the darkest recesses of the paranoid right.

Hugh Hewitt

conservative radio talk show host on Salem Radio Network and Donald Trump supporter

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt

conservative radio talk show host on Salem Radio Network and Donald Trump supporter

I was troubled by the lack of professionalism from the trenches, but also encouraged by the arrival of Kellyanne at Trump Tower, who I think was the one figure in the long saga of the Trump campaign that Republican regulars like me thought, okay, there’s an experienced hand at the wheel.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

I said [to Trump], “I looked at the polls. You’re losing — but you don’t have to. There’s still a pathway back. But we have to play the role of underdog and own it.” . . . Part of his personal mantra is, “I’m the winner. I don’t lose. I’m not a loser.” And I said, “You turned 70. You’ve been winning your whole life. You’re enormously successful, very popular, not a political figure in this country. And you don’t want your first major loss [to be] to Hillary Clinton.”

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

Prior to them coming on board, there always seemed to be this binary choice: Let Trump be Trump or make him inauthentic. I think they finally recognized that there was a middle ground that he would be comfortable with and that would further the goals of the election. . . . You could see the results translate. He was gaining on her.

Peter T. King

Republican congressman from New York and Donald Trump supporter

Peter T. King

Peter T. King

Republican congressman from New York and Donald Trump supporter

There was a fundraiser [with] him held in Suffolk County. . . . It was really in the middle of the storm. . . . Republicans were attacking him. . . . He seemed genuinely at ease with the world. . . . Suddenly you see [his] helicopter buzz the party, twice. Yeah, that was Trump.

In response to the staff changes, the Clinton team reprises San Diego, this time in Reno, Nev., with a speech denouncing Trump’s connections to the alt-right.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon is pictured backstage during a campaign event in Warren, Michigan U.S. October 31, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Donald Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon backstage during an event in Warren, Mich., in late October. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Hillary for America national press secretary

You had all of these people trying to understand what it meant that he was giving over the keys of the campaign to Bannon and to Bossie. Everybody was talking about the Breitbart-ization of the Trump campaign. . . . Jen [Palmieri] and Jake [Sullivan] thought that, in the same spirit of the national security speech in San Diego . . . let’s do one about what it means that he’s given over his campaign to the alt-right movement.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

I was like, “Let’s throw the book at the guy. Let’s just throw the book.”

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

You can dance around the issue and speak about the bigotry and the anti-Semitism and all the things that we were seeing emerge from the campaign and from the supporters. You could talk about it by implication. You can hint at it. You can call it out in very general terms. But none of that was getting to the heart of the matter.

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Dan Schwerin

Hillary for America director of speechwriting

I never set out to write a taxonomy of the alt-right. The goal wasn’t [that] the country should understand that there is this alt-right fringe. It was always [that] you need to understand Trump, who he is and what he is doing in his campaign, and what kind of president he would be.

Sept. 9-11, 2016

At a Friday night fundraiser, Clinton says half of Trump’s supporters are a “basket of deplorables.” Two days later, she has a fainting spell at Ground Zero in New York after a pneumonia diagnosis.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum fifteen years after the day on September 11, 2016 in New York City. Throughout the country services are being held to remember the 2,977 people who were killed in New York, the Pentagon and in a field in rural Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Donald Trump attends a commemoration ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, fifteen years after the attacks. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

retired neurosurgeon, former Republican presidential candidate and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

I think the “deplorables” comment had a bigger impact [than Comey’s press conference] because that was a direct insult to a lot of people.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

There is certainly something real there, but she went too far.

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Hillary for America senior adviser and chief of staff to vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine

I think that was one of the first, if not the first, fundraisers we had let the press in. . . . I think it was a point of, you know, this is a human endeavor. People get tired. They make mistakes.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

We needed a moment that was about her and this squarely put her back in the spotlight. . . . On the deplorables and irredemables piece, it gave us something to shoot at. They had been talking about him and his temperament and his comments, and here we had something that we could have true outrage about.

Peter T. King

Peter T. King

Peter T. King

Republican congressman from New York and Donald Trump supporter

As we’re standing around before [the Sept. 11 ceremony] started, I can see that Trump and Hillary were in no mood to talk to each other. . . . I just was going to go over to say hello to her. I was really struck how she did not look good at all. I wasn’t even thinking of health. This campaign must be wearing her out. She had no time to put on makeup, no time to fix her hair. . . . I said hello, kissed her on the cheek, that type of thing. “How’s it going?” She said, “Fine.”

Then I go back over and talk to Trump. He was telling me, “There’s something wrong with her health.” . . . I got the impression she was leaving. Then about a minute or two later, Trump says to me, “I understand Hillary is sick.”

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Hillary for America senior adviser and chief of staff to vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine

The first time I saw the tape, I just felt so bad. . . . She’s strong, she is tough, she is bullheaded, and that’s what makes her so great. Also, that can be a challenge for her.

Kristina Schake

Kristina Schake

Kristina Schake

Hillary for America deputy communications director

I didn’t realize she had pneumonia . . . 9/11 was just an emotional day for her. . . . It was very important for her to be at the memorial.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

I got to tell you, there’s a separation between reality and what gets reported as reality. . . . For the press tizzy on Sunday about “we didn’t know where she was for 45 minutes,” there weren’t any voters outside the press corps who cared about that.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

We lost a week where we could be fighting him defending ourselves as we did. In the course of an 18-month campaign, you’ll have times like that. She had pneumonia. I don’t know. It’s not like some failure of character.

David Simas

David Simas

David Simas

director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach

She was in the barrel. What you look to see is, to the extent that the race is tightening, what does it look like? Is it Trump’s numbers beginning to go up? Is it her numbers going down? And [are] the people who are peeling off going to undecided or to a third or a fourth party?

Jesse Ferguson

Hillary for America deputy national press secretary

Jesse Ferguson

Jesse Ferguson

Hillary for America deputy national press secretary

There were some indications that he was closing things a little bit, and I felt like there was time left in the race for him to successfully close the gap. I don’t know that I necessarily had a rationalization for it, but there was a fear that the direction and trajectory I had always assumed was there in this race didn’t hold.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

When Mr. Trump goes on stage in front of 20,000 people and he starts talking about the emails and 10,000 people start chanting, “Lock her up,” and it happens in Pensacola, and it happens in New Hampshire, and it happens in Iowa, it becomes a national phenomenon.

Oren Shur

Hillary for America director of paid media

Oren Shur

Oren Shur

Hillary for America director of paid media

When he’s Teleprompter Trump for 10 minutes, we’ve got to remind people what non-Teleprompter Trump is.

Navin Nayak

Hillary for America director of opinion research

Navin Nayak

Navin Nayak

Hillary for America director of opinion research

There was an ad that had been cut by the team, which is fantastic, of these young women looking at themselves in the mirror while Donald Trump makes these offensive comments about women’s body image. It had been a quiet week of him not making news. We were taking on headwinds with a variety of things. And Oren [Shur] was adamant we’ve got to get this ad up on the air.

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

Democrats completely and utterly panicked. . . . They all say, “Well, what about Brexit?” “What if the models are off?” It was really unbelievable, actually, because I was out doing a lot of fundraising and things and it was like therapy sessions. . . . I think the 42nd president is prone to it as well.

Sept. 26, 2016

Throughout September, the race continues to tighten, so that by the time Clinton and Trump meet at Hofstra University for their first debate, it is a virtual tie.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagree during their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

I don’t think I slept for days. . . . The uncertainty was greater than about any debate I’ve ever walked into, ever planned for, what was going to happen between the two of them?

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

I think the technical term is stressed out, massively stressed out …. Most people beforehand were asking, “How are you going to deal with this crazy man up there doing crazy things?” I would say to them that is not what keeps me up at night at all. It’s the exact opposite.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

We prepared for several different scenarios. We prepared for a nice Trump, a dignified Trump, a gracious Trump. We prepared for a battling Trump.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

How do you deal with the fact that the expectations that were set for him for the first debate were so low that if he had completed English sentences and not frothed at the mouth or fallen over, he could have been declared presidential? . . . Ultimately, she sort of developed herself a means of just being calm and relentless about prosecuting her case and having confidence that in doing so, that would put him off his game and get him to sort of chase rabbits down the holes.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

I think the overarching strategy is to make clear that there is only one president on that stage. That’s always Ron Klain and Karen Dunn’s mantra. . . . We were very much going to drive it, our three pillars: We were going to look for opportunities to show him as unfit and unprepared throughout that debate, and we were going to do that on the commander-in-chief front. We were going to do it on the divisiveness front; hence, the Alicia Machado moment. And we were going to do it on the economic front.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

Philippe [Reines] was incredible — incredible — at inhabiting the mind and mind-set and logic of Donald Trump. It was really remarkable. He watched dozens of hours of tape of his rallies and read the transcripts and presented in our practice sessions precisely both the content and form of the answers that Trump was giving in the actual debates to the point where there was a moment before the first debate where Philippe was blaming the microphone.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

One of us asked [Clinton] how she was feeling and what she was most worried about. . . . She just felt a burden of responsibility and obligation to make sure he never was anywhere near the Oval Office.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

It became clear to me that we were not going to be able to do a traditional debate prep with Trump. That’s not who he is. I viewed the policy speeches we were organizing in August and September as debate prep. . . . I was going to try to do a dry run, although I had very little confidence that I’d be able to get him to do a mock debate. I did, in fact, have somebody lined up to play Hillary Clinton, if we could have it structured: Laura Ingraham.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[In debate prep], my sense was that he would sit down and listen to people and nod and not pay them the kind of attention you might expect. . . . You’ve got to remember, if you don’t particularly want to be trained, one really cool way to do it is throw so many people in the room, they can argue with each other.

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt

conservative radio talk show host on Salem Radio Network and Donald Trump supporter

He has muscle memory from 11 primary debates. His muscle memory is, I win these things by being myself, by a sharp jab at my major opponent, and I win if I just stay on the stage for 90 minutes. But that muscle memory, it’s sort of like an athlete who changes sports. Different muscle groups.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

I said [to Trump], “Look, you were the best natural debater I’ve ever seen,” and I said, “You need to relax and remember that you’re talking to the audience. You’re not talking to the moderator, and you need to be who you are.”

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Hillary for America senior adviser

I was watching on [focus group] dials. I had a monitor in addition to watching the TV. And I’m going, “This isn’t good. This isn’t good for him, the constant interruption.” Even in those first few minutes where he was okay substantively, but he was not winning the day.

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Hillary for America senior policy adviser

At minute 45, I was thinking, man, he’s really kind of coming apart on certain things. By an hour, I thought, okay, she’s decisively winning this debate and maybe we should just have them call it at 60 minutes so we can all go home. Then it was like, oh, my gosh, this is just getting more and more extraordinary. And, of course, the closing exchange on Alicia Machado was really quite something.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

We thought the most effective argument was when he hit on the 30 years doing nothing. Part of the status quo.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

He missed it by a couple of points. He needed to show himself to be presidential and he needed to define change in that debate, and I didn’t think that he defined himself the way he needed to. . . . She was prepared. She had a strategy and she implemented it. And he felt like by force of personality he would be able to get his points across.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

retired neurosurgeon, former Republican presidential candidate and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

As you know, Hillary has hired some psychiatrists to study Donald Trump and how to push his buttons, so she started pushing them and he started reacting. . . . She did a very good job of that. But the fact that he’s a novice at this and really was able to pretty much hold his own, I think, speaks volumes.

Anthony Scaramucci

SkyBridge Capital founder and member of Donald J. Trump for President’s national finance committee

Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

SkyBridge Capital founder and member of Donald J. Trump for President’s national finance committee

[Trump] is a political Pac-Man where that yellow face is open, and he is chopping away and nonstop.

Alexandria Phillips

Hillary for America national media booking manager

Alexandria Phillips

Alexandria Phillips

Hillary for America national media booking manager

Mark Cuban came to the debate. . . . We couldn’t even get in the door [of the spin room] because people were pushing through. I’m pretty pushy. We got him through. Then I think [Mike] Pence came out at the same time and we kind of merged. That’s when one of the Pence cameras hit me in the head. Mark was very sweet. He stopped the gaggle and said, “Alex, are you okay?” And I was fine.

DADE CITY, FL - With former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets and speaks to Florida voters at Pasco-Hernando State College East Campus during a rally in Dade City, Florida Tuesday November 1, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado attends a Hillary Clinton speech in Dade City, Fla., in early November. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Teddy Goff

Hillary for America chief digital strategist

Under other circumstances, we would have done some kind of recap video and tried to encapsulate some type of a broader point about that debate. We made a decision to put out the [Alicia] Machado video. That was actually hotly debated because some people thought it might just sort of get swallowed up in the hysteria of the debate. . . . But it gains a lot of traction overnight, especially on Twitter, which I have heard Donald Trump uses. It was the next morning he calls in to “Fox & Friends” and, unprompted, brings this up and says it was a huge problem that she gained a lot of weight. . . . That set off another, as Jen Palmieri calls it, a serial Khan death spiral. It was culminating Friday at 5 a.m. when he sent those tweets. And that video, by the way, has 50 million views. Fifty million.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

I actually thought he did very well, and it was his reaction to the Miss Universe thing after the debate that I thought, you know, cost him points. And I thought if he had kept quiet that he would have gotten out of the debate not having won it but having survived it.

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

These are gifts from political heaven that you generally don’t experience in American politics.

Oct. 7, 2016

As Trump struggles to recover from the first debate, he is hit with another big surprise ahead of the second debate: the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

We’re in debate prep on [floor] 25. I was sitting directly across [from] Mr. Trump at a big boardroom table upstairs. Steve [Bannon] was sitting next to me, and Kellyanne [Conway] was sitting next to him, and then I think Chris Christie and Reince Priebus were there. . . . I got an email or a text, I don’t recall which, and it said, “We have a problem.”. . . I leaned over and let Steve read my phone. He handed it back to me. I handed the phone to Kellyanne.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

We had the transcript, so we didn’t have any sound. And we were asked to comment on it and didn’t have that. But it was immediately spin-into-action mode. And I was there when [Trump] read it.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

[Trump] said it didn’t sound like him, and so we waited a short period of time. Then [Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold] sent over the audiotape and we listened to it together. Then we decided what to do about it and we came up with the idea of a video.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

The apology that he delivered that night was his idea and was incredibly heartfelt and contrite. And I thought, if I can point to one thing that was really unfair by lots of people is everybody sort of scrutinizing how genuine his apology was. I assure you, it was very genuine. And it wasn’t just an apology. It was also an explanation. And Melania came out with her statement the next day. And we were basically locked in the tower. I call myself Rapunzel locked in the tower.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

We were up at the Doral hotel up in Westchester where we’ve been doing debate prep. We were on a break in the afternoon. . . . Our jaws just dropped. I mean, you would have heard a pin drop as we’re watching and listening to this. It really took several viewings, I think, for it to sink in, at least for me. . . . [Clinton] was watching and listening very intently. . . . For quite a while, she didn’t say something. She looked really very disturbed.

Cecile Richards

Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and Hillary Clinton surrogate

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards

Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and Hillary Clinton surrogate

It was revolting, but I don’t think it was particularly surprising. Once you see it on videotape, it’s very hard to turn away. . . . They saw him not only saying these things, but then being in the company of the woman that he had basically bragged about that he was going to assault. That made it personal and real.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

The Clinton strategy the whole campaign — whether it was Judge Curiel, Khan, Alicia Machado, Billy Bush — was to take these snippets out of context and define them as the essence of Trump. It was done effectively.

Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin

Las Vegas business mogul and Donald Trump friend

My wife and I would join [Trump] at these pageants because she had one of the franchises. He flies in at the last day. After it’s over, they go to the spin room and the girls just flock around him. They want to touch him, they want autographs, and he takes pictures with them. He treats them very courteously and then he leaves. He goes home to Melania right after that.

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

For God’s sakes, the guy on the street could give a [expletive] about the video. It doesn’t matter to him. Trump’s support didn’t wane one bit over that friggin’ nonsense.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

Trump is a unicorn of a candidate. No one else could have withstood that politically. There’s an element of his persona. I don’t think anybody’s ever claimed that he was a saint. So it wasn’t completely counter to the narrative.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

Reince [Priebus] and I were texting back and forth that night. He said, “I am in tears over this.” I said, “Reince, you are not going to allow Trump to come here and drop this turd bomb on every Republican in Wisconsin, are you?” This video came out and the next day we’d have this photo op from hell?

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Republican congressman from Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Donald Trump supporter

I thought, I’m out. I’m not putting my good name and reputation behind somebody who’s going to act like that. I was pulling back my endorsement. [Chaffetz later announced that he would vote for Trump.]

Peter T. King

Peter T. King

Peter T. King

Republican congressman from New York and Donald Trump supporter

Columbus Day morning. . . . The conference call was scheduled for 11 o’clock. . . . [Paul] Ryan said that he was not going to defend Trump. He was not going to campaign with him. He was just going to campaign for House Republicans. . . . That leaked out within seconds. . . . Three or four people all got [on the call] and were extremely critical. Then Paul got back on: “Let me clarify what I just said. I’m still supporting Donald Trump.”

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes

conservative radio talk show host on WTMJ in Wisconsin and Donald Trump opponent

Things had been building up emotionally, Ryan’s frustration and disgust with Donald Trump, and that was really the decisive break. That was Paul Ryan serving the divorce papers.

Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

SkyBridge Capital founder and member of Donald J. Trump for President’s national finance committee

It’s just more evidence to the American people of what politicians are actually like. They’re standing there in this mock outrage, and these so-called principles. . . . I was on Maria Bartiromo’s show and saying that these were “jellyfish Republicans.”

David Simas

David Simas

David Simas

director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach

[Michelle Obama] just felt deeply that she needed to speak out. . . . Weeks before that New Hampshire speech, she said, “I want to give a speech about women to women,” and obviously to the American people more broadly. But that speech in New Hampshire was not a reaction to the video.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

Look, [Trump] is a survivor. And around here, we are the walking wounded. I got shrapnel. I got war wounds, basically, because we’re just used to taking the Edward Scissorhands version of incoming.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

We all just regard all you guys as the enemy. It’s not even like neutral. . . . All of you, not any one paper, not any one network. All of you.

Part of Trump’s response is to bring women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to St. Louis for the second presidential debate.

Russ Schriefer

Russ Schriefer

Russ Schriefer

Republican strategist and senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

Many of the things he brought up — the Bill Clinton scandals, having Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey there — certain folks always have wanted the Republican candidate to litigate these issues.

ST. LOUIS, MO - (L-R) Three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct; Juanita Broaddrick,  Kathleen Wiley, and Kathy Shelton, watch the second Presidential debate between Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday October 9, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump invited three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct — from left, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathy Shelton — to attend his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in early October. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

We see what they’re doing with Billy Bush and with the [Alicia] Machado thing, and we see what they’re doing in the coming days with the women and the accusations. . . . It was a calculation that if we go do this and have a scorched-earth approach — they have one — it’s a M.A.D. policy of mutually assured destruction. If we go as hard at them as they are coming at us . . . there is time to rebuild. You can win. There’s a possibility we don’t.

It wasn’t a deflection tactic. It was a tactic of driving up [Clinton’s] negatives back to where they had been because that was what they were doing to us. It’s hard to respond with lollipops and rainbows, so you respond with in kind. You respond with artillery fire.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

That’s when we probably get to our biggest lead . . . we probably touched double digits.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

[We told Trump], “Remember, all of that is not happening in a vacuum. . . . You have to prepare for the third and final debate. You have to not only prepare, you have to perform.” . . . Live television, 90 minutes on your feet. I mean, that’s an enormous amount of pressure on anyone.

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Jim Margolis

Hillary for America senior adviser

A shout-out to Philippe [Reines], who I think was a better Donald Trump than Donald Trump ever was, more cogent, but also had a lot of the moves as well. . . . [In prep for the third debate, Clinton] is about to begin and he starts chasing her around the room.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

[Trump’s] performance at the debate was so good and so overwhelming, in our opinion. Look, he had the one line about Chris Wallace’s question about [accepting the results of] the election.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

That was by far the best debate he had. If you think about the opening of that debate — immigration, Supreme Court, the economy — it was extremely strong. So what was disappointing is that that one phrase started to dominate. . . . He had thrown it out there a couple times and been told, “If you do this, this is going to elicit an unfavorable response.”

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

After the last debate, a lot of people said it’s clear sailing between now and the end. I said, “We’re going to have one more jolt at the roller coaster, I just know it, like another turn, another spin or something.”

One thing still spinning is WikiLeaks, which continues to release tens of thousands of John Podesta’s emails, saddling the Clinton campaign.

John Podesta

John Podesta

John Podesta

Hillary for America campaign chairman

It became clear that it was part of the same operation that was run by the Russians to provide information. . . . The decision of [Julian] Assange and WikiLeaks to dribble this out over the course of the remaining days of the campaign, and the fact that they decided to pull the trigger on this — they obviously were sitting on this — right after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out all meant that they were affirmatively interfering in the U.S. election.

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Robby Mook

Hillary for America campaign manager

It became kind of a joke that any suspicious activity was like the Russians spying on us. . . . I think there was always a little element of, like, genuine suspicion and paranoia. . . . When we were at the [Democratic] convention, I very clearly remember being on George Stephanopoulos’s show on Sunday morning and saying, “This is the Russians” who [hacked DNC emails]. He was looking at me like I was wearing a tinfoil hat.

Jeff Weaver

manager of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign

Jeff Weaver

Jeff Weaver

manager of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign

We had pushed very, very hard for the release of [Clinton’s paid speech] transcripts during the course of the primary campaign. . . . There were a lot of items in the speeches to banks that seemed more accommodating than one would have liked in a primary campaign. There were WikiLeaks emails from people inside the Clinton campaign where they were discussing whether to release them or not and they were pointing out what they viewed as danger points.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 3: On line for a Vamoose Bus from NYC to DC - In an attempt to save on travel expenses back and forth from office to work, and in reverse, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign John Podesta John Podesta commutes home to Bethesda, Maryland via NY subway, Vamoose Bus Company, and Metro from the Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

John Podesta, chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, is pictured on his commute from Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to his home in Bethesda, Md. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Oct. 28, 2016

With just days before Election Day, comes the biggest surprise yet: FBI Director James B. Comey sends a letter to Congress saying that there are more emails and potentially more trouble for Clinton.

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Republican congressman from Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Donald Trump supporter

So close to the election, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. We chewed on it for a few minutes and I decided to send out a tweet that the case had been reopened. . . . It exploded. It was being retweeted by the thousands. Major newsrooms started to realize, wow, we’ve got a new direction for this campaign.

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Hillary for America national press secretary

I proclaimed it out loud over there in the bullpen, that this was just [Chaffetz] over there and playing their hand again. . . . But it was a letter from Comey officially saying that they were reviewing new material that may be pertinent to the investigation.

The travel team was on the plane in the air and the WiFi was notoriously not cooperative. We couldn’t call them, obviously. . . . On the phone, before the travel team landed, we had the lawyers and Cheryl [Mills]. Everybody was just flabbergasted by the fact that [Comey] did it. There was no question that we were going to make an issue out of the fact that this was happening 11 days out from the election and that this was unprecedented.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

I was doing a live hit on Yahoo. Bianna Golodryga was in the chair for Katie [Couric] and she said, “We’ve got some breaking news.” She called it reopening the investigation. And my immediate reaction was, there must be something more there.

It was hours later that we discovered through news accounts that it was connected to [former congressman] Anthony Weiner, which is some kind of irony, definitely, especially if you’re Hillary Clinton, I guess, that someone’s husband’s sexual peccadillos will actually cause you consternation and perhaps help cost you the Oval [Office] in 10 short days. . . . It’s one of those things where we already had a nest that was well-feathered in terms of a rigged, corrupt system inside are benefiting. She’s Crooked Hillary.

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Republican National Committee chief strategist

It was like looking at the lottery ticket and saying, “I think these are the winning numbers, but I’m going to go confirm them again.” . . . “Anthony Weiner.” “Underage sexting scandal.” “Hillary Clinton.” “ FBI investigation.” There is no combination in which that word jumble comes up net politically positive.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

I called Trump and I said, “It is better to be lucky than smart, although it’s good to be both.” He said, “I don’t think I should do anymore interviews, do you?” I said, “No. I think nine days of the teleprompter will be just fine.” He said, “I agree with you.”

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

They started attacking Jim Comey, which I knew from the beginning would be a huge mistake because it seems defensive and it seems desperate and it seems odd, given the fact that he is President Obama’s FBI director — and he had been praised.

Tad Devine

chief strategist of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign

Tad Devine

Tad Devine

chief strategist of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign

I think they were very smart to go aggressive against Comey. . . . I think that was very effective and managed to shift this from an inquiry about [Anthony] Weiner and Hillary and emails to a question of fundamental fairness.

Jesse Ferguson

Jesse Ferguson

Jesse Ferguson

Hillary for America deputy national press secretary

It was baked in the cake. There was nobody who woke up that Saturday morning and opened up The Washington Post and said, “Man, I was going to be with Hillary Clinton but I didn’t know anything about this email server issue. That’s new to me.” You would’ve been living on Mars for the last 18 months.

Guy Cecil

Guy Cecil

Guy Cecil

chief strategist of Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC

Across battleground states there was a slight dip. The only question was, was that going to continue through the election? Our basic premise was we had to operate as if it would. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday raising money. We ended up raising an additional $13.5 million over four days. The laborers gave another million. Haim Saban gave another $2.25 [million]. Jim Simons gave another $2.25 million. Fred Eychaner gave another million.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

I think they probably fired up every focus group facility from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. . . . One of my immediate reactions was, this is a problem for her . . . a new part of what I always call the Clinton Scandelabra, which never seems to end. It always seems to pick up new weight and new color and contour.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

former campaign chairman for Donald Trump and convention manager

It put him in a position to win. . . . The server issue was reopened just at the time that the Clinton Foundation messaging had effectively peaked in the campaign, so it allowed Trump to add to his closing argument a very cogent presentation . . . and it came at a time when people were really tired of the barrage from WikiLeaks and everything else, of all of the deception and lies and manipulations coming out of the Clinton campaign. You had this perfect storm.

Part of a Nov. 6, 2016, letter from FBI director James Comey to Congress is photographed in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. Comey tells Congress that a review of new Hillary Clinton emails has "not changed our conclusions" from earlier this year that she should not face charges. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

In a Nov. 6 letter to Congress, FBI Director James B. Comey says that a review of new Hillary Clinton emails has “not changed our conclusions” from earlier this year that she should not face charges. (Jon Elswick/AP)

The Comey announcement unleashes a final frenzy of campaigning as the candidates make closing arguments and shift strategies. Then, with two days left, Comey sends another letter.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri

Hillary for America communications director

We were on the flight to Cleveland [last Sunday]. Glen Caplin came over to me and said, “Comey sent another letter,” which I just laughed at. It just was so absurd at this point. . . . We’re 36 hours out, and even though this was a helpful development, it would have been counterproductive to talk about it. We told [Clinton]. Her response was understated. She just kind of took it on board.

Lily Adams

Hillary for America state communications director

Lily Adams

Lily Adams

Hillary for America state communications director

We have more top-flight surrogates who, no matter what battleground states I send them to, will make the front page or lead the evening newscast. That’s President Obama, the first lady, Vice President Biden, President Clinton and Tim Kaine, plus Secretary Clinton.

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

David Plouffe

Democratic strategist, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter

[President Obama] is so scared of Donald Trump in the Situation Room. . . . That’s what drove him.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to staff aboard the campaign plane, with (R-L) Advisor Philippe Reines, Press Secretary Nick Merrill, and Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, on route to Las Vegas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Wednesday November 2, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton speaks to staff members aboard her campaign plane — including, from left, adviser Philippe Reines, press secretary Nick Merrill and communications director Jennifer Palmieri — in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., en route to Las Vegas. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

SkyBridge Capital founder and member of Donald J. Trump for President’s national finance committee

A transition question came up . . . and [Trump] said, “Okay, yeah, that’s great. We got to win the election.” He goes, “On November 9th, I promise you, I’ll put 200 percent of my time in a transition. I don’t even want to think about that right now.”

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

former House speaker, former Republican presidential candidate, and Donald Trump adviser and surrogate

[Trump’s closing argument speech in] Gettysburg was a comprehensive effort to state the scale of reform necessary to clean up the cesspool which is Washington and re-establish a government capable of functioning.

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

Show these are not your garden-variety, typical promises from a politician in the heat of the campaign, but this is actually a presidential vision moving forward.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

I think he honed the message of the rigged system, the drain the swamp, the media bias. He honed that very sharply. . . . He speaks truth to power.

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Donald J. Trump for President senior communications adviser

You really saw the Obamacare news, the Doug Band news, the $66 million Clinton Inc., you saw the FBI bombshell in the news — something is coming up every single day.

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Joel Benenson

Hillary for America senior strategist

There’s no question he’s run as an antiestablishment candidate but he’s also tapped into a vein of bigotry and divisiveness that goes beyond just feeling uncomfortable about those stirrings in our society.

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Donald J. Trump for President senior communications adviser

When we woke up [on Oct. 28], Dave [Bossie] will tell you, I came barreling into his office and, like, “We got to get the boss to New Mexico.” Dave was like, “I’m a step ahead of you. We’re already looking at Sunday afternoon.” . . . [Trump] was hitting on it and saying, “Well, we’ve got to get back to New Mexico. Something is going on there. It’s big.”

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

Some of the spots were head fakes, but we wanted [the Clinton campaign] to not know what we were doing. Is New Mexico at the top of my list of states I could flip? Not really.

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Mandy Grunwald

Hillary for America senior adviser

How it will happen would be that the desire for change was greater than the fear of him, the fear of the risk. . . . That’s something we talked about very early on — how do we make sure that people aren’t comfortable making that leap because they’d like to go for change. . . . The question is what’s the more salient question when they go vote.

SCRANTON, PA - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Lackawanna College Student Union in Scranton, PA on Monday November 07, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump prepares to speak at a campaign event in Scranton, Pa., before Election Day. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Matt Paul

Hillary for America senior adviser and chief of staff to vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine

There is such utter and complete frustration with what has become of our political body — that there’s too much money, that people don’t see results in their living rooms, and that quiet rage within people. . . . They’re not on anybody’s radar, but they’re out there.

Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin

Las Vegas business mogul and Donald Trump friend

I’m sitting at home [in Las Vegas] . . . and [Trump] calls me on the phone. He said, “Get down here.” . . . So I went down there. . . . He had the crowd all riled up. When he got off, I told him, “I think you’re going to win.” [Later that day in Reno] people were lined up on the highways for miles on both sides and I said, “Jesus Christ, Donald, you’re not the pope.”

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

In the wake of President Obama’s historic victory, I was curious and not so convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to be able to claim the same mantle toward history that he did. . . . I’ve always thought for Hillary, the question is not, “Would you vote for a woman?” It’s, “Would you vote for that woman?” It’s Hillary. It’s not a hypothetical.

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino

Donald J. Trump for President New York co-chairman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York

Why does he rise? . . . He’s a guy that gets pummeled and pummeled and pummeled and he doesn’t quit. The American people see that.

David Bossie

David Bossie

David Bossie

Donald J. Trump for President deputy campaign manager

Look, I am a believer that there is the under-vote out there. . . . There are Americans out there who, when they answer their phone, don’t necessarily know who is on the other end of it and don’t necessarily speak honestly.

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