Well, this is a little awkward.
Steve Schmidt, one of the co-founders of anti-Trump political action group the Lincoln Project, met with then-candidate Donald Trump and tried to join his campaign during a 2016 Manhattan meeting, sources with knowledge of the conversation told The Post.
But the Republican operative — best known for his work on John McCain’s failed presidential bid before becoming one of the faces of the “Never Trump” movement — failed to get the gig because Trump thought he was a “total idiot,” one of the sources said.
Ten days after Schmidt’s March 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, the campaign hired Paul Manafort as chairman and eventually promoted him to campaign manager.
In an interview with PRWeek two years later, the Jersey-born political strategist and PR executive nonchalantly recounted the meeting with Trump as a chance to “see what he was about” and likened it to being given the opportunity to see a UFO in Central Park.
But sources familiar with the meeting said Schmidt spent the entire encounter presenting what he thought the outsider candidate needed to do to win the election and was reportedly gunning for the campaign chief role, which Corey Lewandowski was fired from three months later.
One source said Schmidt, 49, thought the president was “the best candidate he had ever seen” and recounted how the campaign and the operative exchanged emails for months beforehand.
But things quickly soured when Trump thought Schmidt’s ideas were bad and the Big Apple real estate mogul left the meeting with a feeling that Schmidt was “very untrustworthy” and a “total idiot,” the insider said.
“The president was very turned off by the fact that Schmidt had turned on McCain, his former boss, for the money,” the source alleged, referring to Schmidt’s decision to dish dirt on the 2008 campaign he helped guide to doom in a lengthy interview for scandalous campaign book “Game Change,” which eventually became a movie.
Schmidt did not immediately return requests for comment.
Fast forward to today and Schmidt and his Lincoln Project pals are some of the most vociferous opponents of Trump — a profitable gig for a group of people whose eyebrow-raising legal woes have sparked questions about motive and were documented by The Post last week.
In a buzzworthy New York Times op-ed last December, the band of conservatives painted themselves as noble crusaders against a “bogus prophet,” and their splashy ads deliberately designed to bait the president have raked in $20 million in fundraising cash.
Perhaps no one in the group has been more critical of the president than Schmidt who has described Trump as a “con man,” “idiot,” “imbecile,” “rancid and wretched fool,” “lethally stupid,” “grotesque,” and a “racist disgrace.”
But it wasn’t always this way.
In a November 2015 interview on “Morning Joe,” Schmidt, a long-time MSNBC contributor, asked candidate Trump about his position on Syria when Trump eagerly thanked Schmidt for being supportive of his upstart campaign.
“Steve, thank you for saying such nice things about me over the last number of months. You were there a long time before most so I appreciate it,” Trump said.
And in March 2016, while the establishment GOP was in the throes of a movement to stop Trump at all costs as the field narrowed to him and Ted Cruz, Schmidt gave a prescient analysis of how the reality star was expanding the base of the Republican Party and appealing to disaffected voters.
The day before he went to Trump Tower for the secretive job interview, Schmidt also bashed the “Never Trump” movement he now helps lead.
“Most of the people talking about the ‘Stop Trump movement’ out of Washington DC and the consultant class couldn’t organize a three-car motorcade,” Schmidt sneered on “Morning Joe.”
Trump and Schmidt have never spoken about the Trump Tower meeting but in a series of tweets this May, the president railed against the Lincoln Project creators, describing them as “loser types” whom he would never hire.
“I didn’t use any of them,” Trump wrote, “because they didn’t know how to win.”
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