Allegations of domestic violence and anti-Semitism from a former wife of Donald Trump’s new campaign chief executive brought fresh scrutiny on Friday to how well Trump vets his most senior employees and advisers — another distraction from the themes the GOP nominee wants to emphasize less than 11 weeks from the election.
Records show that Stephen K. Bannon changed his voter registration address in Florida this week as reporters were preparing a story about how he was registered at an address where he did not live. A spokeswoman provided a statement from someone who said Bannon had lived there but did not respond to a question about why he changed his registration to the new address. She also denied Bannon made any anti-Semitic remarks.
Bannon also is under a spotlight after revelations that he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence 20 years ago against his then-wife. The case was dismissed.
The new details about Bannon’s personal life could complicate Trump’s recent attempts to improve his standing among moderate voters, minorities and women.
“It just undermines any effort they are pursuing to try and soften him up when he surrounds himself with people like that,” said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who vigorously opposes Trump.
Packer, who served as deputy campaign manager to Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, said Bannon would have never passed the vetting process Romney’s team used when they made hiring decisions.
On Thursday, Bannon’s registration information was changed from an address in Miami-Dade County to Sarasota County, according to Carolina Lopez, the deputy supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade. On Friday morning, the Guardian newspaper reported that Bannon had been registered to vote at an address in Miami-Dade where he did not reside, putting him at odds with state election laws.
The address where Bannon is now registered in Sarasota County is also associated with venture capitalist Andrew Badolato, who, according to his website, has worked as an associate producer on films produced and directed by Bannon.
Badolato also has written for Breitbart News, the right-leaning website Bannon heads. Bannon is on leave from Breitbart as he works for Trump. Badolato gave Trump a $142 donation in April, campaign finance records show.
Badolato did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Bannon spokeswoman Alexandra Preate referred to a statement issued by A.J. Delgado, a conservative commentator supporting Trump.
“I have known Steve for several years and he was most definitely, without a doubt, living in the house in question,” Delgado said. “I personally visited Steve there on various occasions throughout a long period of time starting in 2013. All his belongings, including boxes of documents even, were there and his vehicles.”
But the Miami-Dade property owner, Luis Guevara, told the Guardian that “nobody lives there.” The report said Bannon formerly rented the house for use by Diane Clohesy, one of his ex-wives. Clohesy could not be reached for comment Friday.
Trump has been an outspoken critic of voter fraud, which studies have shown is very rare. He recently encouraged supporters in Pennsylvania to watch for signs of irregularities on Election Day.
Bannon, who recently joined Trump’s team in a leadership shake-up, was charged in 1996 with three counts stemming from a dispute with his then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard. The case, first reported by the New York Post, was dismissed in court, records show.
The disclosures come as Trump has fallen well behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in polls. He is trying to make up ground among women and minorities, who strongly favor Clinton.
In the domestic violence case, Bannon was charged with trying to prevent or dissuade the victim or a witness of a crime from reporting it; inflicting injury on a cohabitant or other closely associated person; and battery, according to court records in Southern California, where Bannon lived at the time.
Bannon was never convicted. The case was dismissed that August, the records show.
According to a police report that was posted online by Politico, Bannon’s then-wife said an argument escalated into a physical confrontation in which Bannon grabbed her wrist and at her neck. As she tried to call 911, he grabbed the telephone and threw it, she alleged. She also said there were past instances of disputes that became physical.
Piccard, who had twins with Bannon, filed for divorce in January 1997, court records show. Piccard could not be reached for comment Friday.
The New York Daily News reported Friday that Piccard said in a 2007 court statement that Bannon didn’t want their twin daughters attending a school because too many Jews attended. “The biggest problem he had with Archer [School for Girls in Los Angeles] is the number of Jews that attend,” Piccard said in her statement, the newspaper reported. Preate, however, said Bannon has denied saying that and proudly sent the girls to Archer school.
“He said that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews,” Piccard wrote, according to the Daily News.
Preate said of the 1996 incident and subsequent case: “Mr. Bannon found out via U.S. mail. The attorney handled it. He was never involved and it was dropped. He has a great relationship with his ex-wife and his twins.”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said in an interview with ABC News on Friday that she did not know whether Trump was aware of the case.
“I don’t know what he was aware of with respect to a 20-year-old claim where the charges were dropped,” Conway said. “So that’s all I know about is what I read.”