President Trump on Tuesday ratcheted up a remarkable public spat with the husband of one of his top advisers, attacking Kellyanne Conway’s husband as “a total loser” on Twitter in response to the lawyer’s persistent questions about his mental health and competence.
“A total loser!” Trump wrote in the tweet targeting Conway’s husband, a prominent conservative attorney. The president’s tweet also included a dubious assertion from Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, that the president “doesn’t even know” his senior adviser’s husband.
But George Conway said in an interview Tuesday that he has had a number of notable interactions with Trump over the past decade, often concerning legal representation and sensitive legal matters since Trump became president. He described the president as “mendacious” and “incompetent” and predicted he would not win reelection.
Conway also suggested his own tweets questioning the president’s mental health were aimed in part at avoiding conflicts with his wife.
“It’s so maddening to watch,” said Conway, a longtime Washington attorney who is well-known in conservative circles. “The mendacity, the incompetence, it’s just maddening to watch. The tweeting is just the way to get it out of the way, so I can get it off my chest and move on with my life that day. That’s basically it. Frankly, it’s so I don’t end up screaming at her about it.”
Conway has been a persistent critic of Trump’s policies and actions, frequently going on Twitter to question whether the president is operating within the Constitution and other accepted boundaries. But the criticism recently has become more personal, and he has often attacked Trump just after his wife defends the president on television.
Conway’s tweets Monday included images from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including pages with diagnostic criteria for “narcissistic personality disorder” and “antisocial personality disorder.”
Although Conway had previously posted similar concerns on Twitter, “it stuck this time because of the utter bizarreness this weekend, his own conduct. It was so illustrative,” he said, referring to a two-day span in which Trump sent out 52 tweets with a broad variety of attacks.
Kellyanne Conway did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but she said on Monday that she did not share her husband’s concerns about Trump. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has wanted to attack George Conway on Twitter before but has been talked out of it by aides, who argued it would embolden Conway and cause unnecessary drama, according to several current and former White House aides.
The president’s change of approach was apparently prompted by a tweet sent Monday night by Parscale, who wrote about Conway: “We all know that @realDonaldTrump turned down Mr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted. He barely worked @TheJusticeDept and was either fired/quit, didn’t want the scrutiny?”
George Conway said that contrary to Parscale’s tweet, he opted against working at the Justice Department after Trump offered him a position heading the civil division because he watched Trump attack the department’s leaders and then fire James B. Comey, the FBI director, in early 2017. Conway said he remembered riding down the West Side Highway in Manhattan and hearing on the radio that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had been appointed to lead an investigation of possible connections between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.
“I’m thinking to myself, this guy is going to be at war with the Justice Department for the next two years,” Conway said. “I’m not doing this.”
In a conversation with Trump at the wedding of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in June 2017, Conway said, Trump approached him and complimented him for not taking a job under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“He said to me, I remember it clearly, you were smart not to work for that guy,” Conway said. “He is so weak.”
Trump then complained for several minutes that Sessions should have never recused himself from the Mueller investigation, Conway said. “I told him, I’d heard the recusal issue was pretty clear, that Sessions had to recuse himself,” Conway said. “He took great affront at that.”
A person close to Parscale said the campaign manager was told by Trump that he did not have any recollections of being in a room with George Conway and that the president only met Kellyanne Conway during the election.
George Conway outlined a number of interactions with Trump that date back more than a decade and said his wife had known him for that long.
Shortly after they were married in 2001, Kellyanne and George Conway moved into an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump World Tower. A few years later, George Conway made an impression on the future president at a condominium board meeting where he argued against removing Trump’s name from the building. The speech earned him an offer to join the condo board, which he declined but passed on to his wife, who accepted.
In a 2006 letter shared with The Washington Post, Trump praised Conway for helping him keep control of the building.
“What I was most impressed with was how quickly you were able to comprehend a very bad situation,” Trump wrote, praising Conway for “ridding Trump World Tower of some very bad people.” In a postscript, Trump said Conway had “a truly great voice, certainly not a bad asset for a top trial lawyer!”
Conway said Trump also called him to thank him, and he told the president he was glad his name stayed on the building.
The two later met at a fundraiser in Alpine, N.J., where the Conway family owns a home, he said. After Trump won the election in 2016, Conway said that he flew with Trump to Washington for an inaugural dinner with his wife as they moved their belongings, which were on the plane.
During that flight, Trump quizzed Conway about whether he should fire Preet S. Bharara, then the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Conway said. “I said in general, it’s better to have your people in terms of important positions than others,” Conway said. He said the president did not appear motivated by anything other than political machinations. Trump eventually fired Bharara in the spring of 2017.
During the transition, Conway said he also rode in a black SUV with Trump, his wife and Stephen K. Bannon to a costume party at the home of GOP megadonor Rebekah Mercer. Trump had heard about the party and wanted to attend. During the car ride, Conway said the president was fixated on John Bolton’s prominent mustache — and that it was a reason not to pick him as secretary of state. Since then, Trump picked Bolton as his national security adviser.
“He didn’t like the mustache,” Conway said. “He just went on and on about the mustache.”
Conway later said he was surprised to get a call from Trump around the time he took office, when Trump was seeking legal advice about a lawsuit alleging that he was benefiting financially from the presidency in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The call, Conway said, was arranged by his wife. “He wanted to know what I thought about the judge and what I thought about the case,” Conway said.
In spring 2017, Conway said his wife arranged a call with himself, the president, Vice President Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner to evaluate lawyers for the Mueller investigation. A speakerphone was used, Conway said.
“He wanted to know my opinions on a variety of lawyers who were being considered to be his outside counsel. He asked me for my opinions on each of them,” Conway said, adding that there were “all these people in the room making it a nonprivileged conversation.”
Some in the White House say Conway is selfish for posting so many tweets, making it difficult for his wife to work there and attacking her boss. “Now he hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success,” Parscale said at the end of his tweet Monday night.
Kellyanne Conway went on a lengthy rant about her husband to several guests at a British Embassy party for members of Congress last month, including New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell and former Post journalist Sally Quinn, according to two attendees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.
Conway told the group that she and the president think her husband is jealous of her, and that the president has kept her at a prominent place in the administration because he trusts her and wants to “protect her,” the attendees said.
Kellyanne Conway said that George Conway preferred to spend his time in front of his computer, while she preferred to socialize, the attendees said. She said it was the fault of the news media for giving her husband such a platform, and that some of George Conway’s close friends had asked him to stop.
She told the guests that they would not like it if their marriages or personal lives were in the spotlight, these people said.
Asked for comment, Quinn said Conway was upset about the media giving her husband so much attention.
“She said women should be respectful of other women, and his comments had nothing to do with her job,” Quinn said. “I told her it’s a story, it’s a very good story.”
George Conway declined to comment on the state of his marriage — answering only that he wished his wife did not work for the White House.
He said he remained proud of his wife and was not “jealous.”
“No one was prouder than I was that she was able to elect this man president despite his obvious flaws,” said Conway, who was spotted crying tears of joy on election night in 2016 at Trump Tower. “She took a campaign that the candidate had run into the gutter.”
Asked about White House complaints that he is trading off her fame, he added: “I made it possible for her to be where she is today. So there’s that. It’s not about jealousy. It’s about reality. Who this man is, and whether he’s fit for public office. Which, as I’ve said, he isn’t.”
Many of Conway’s friends in the legal community say he should focus instead on the president’s success in appointing conservative judges and that he is too fixated on the president’s personal style.
But Conway said Trump was damaging conservatism for decades to come and that it was not worth the bargain for judges and conservative policies. He shrugged off Trump calling him “a total loser” on Twitter.
“I thought it was a perfect example of the point I was making,” Conway said. “He can’t concern himself with affairs of state. He’s more concerned about what people say about him and waging little battles with everyone and everything.”