Sunday, March 13, 2016
Wikinews spoke with three people associated with the early political career of U.S. businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Those interviewed include longtime political operative Roger Stone, a close associate of Trump and director of Trump’s 2000 presidential exploratory committee; journalist Dave Shiflett, co-writer of Trump’s 2000 campaign book The America We Deserve; and political consultant Russ Verney, who served as chairman of the Reform Party of the United States of America which Trump briefly joined.
In Trump’s highly publicized 2016 campaign, he has run under the banner of Make America Great Again, advocating a Mexican-funded wall along the U.S.–Mexico border, renegotiation of trade terms with other nations, and a temporary halt on the immigration of Muslims to the United States. He holds a considerable lead in Republican National Convention delegates over his opponents, winning 15 of the first 24 primary and caucus contests. Though this is Trump’s most visible campaign, it is not his first foray into electoral politics. He flirted with Republican presidential runs: first in 1987, when he purchased newspaper advertisements on foreign policy and delivered a campaign-like speech in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire; and then in 2011, when he briefly led nationwide opinion polls for the presidential nomination after questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama. Trump’s most extensive campaign before now came during the 2000 presidential election when he opened an exploratory committee to consider seeking the presidential nomination of the Reform Party.
For 2000, Trump conducted various speeches and media appearances in support of his potential presidential campaign. He placed Stone in charge of his exploratory committee and hired Shiflett to work on what would become The America We Deserve. His chief opponent for the nomination was paleoconservative icon and eventual nominee Pat Buchanan who entered the race after ending his third unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Based on Buchanan’s comments against American involvement in World War II, Trump attacked Buchanan as a “Hitler lover” and anti-Semite. Trump’s campaign received support from then-Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, the highest ranking elected official in the Reform Party. This placed Trump at odds with the faction of industrialist Ross Perot, the party’s founder and two time presidential candidate. Verney, a Perot confidante, was chairman of the party during Trump’s exploration. Though initially dismissive of the campaign, Verney eventually welcomed Trump into the race. However, the deep divisions within the party precipitated the exit of Ventura, and Trump did not seek the nomination. Despite leaving the race, Trump still appeared on Reform Party presidential primary ballots in California and Michigan, winning both states.
Over a five month period, Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn contacted the three previously involved in Trump’s politics to get their thoughts on his current presidential campaign, learn more about Trump’s political past including the true nature of his 2000 effort, and obtain details on his personality.