The Slatest

Donald Trump Didn’t Pay His Policy Experts, Whose Work He Ignored Anyway

Donald Trump speaks to guests during a policy speech at a campaign stop at Alumisource on June 28 in Monessen, Pennsylvania.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Add another group to the long list of people that Donald Trump doesn’t always pay for the work they do for him: the experts that make up his D.C.-area policy shop—or made up, anyway. The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin with the scoop:

Since April, advisers never named in campaign press releases have been working in an Alexandria-based office, writing policy memos, organizing briefings, managing surrogates and placing op-eds. They put in long hours before and during the Republican National Convention to help the campaign look like a professional operation.

But in August, shortly after the convention, most of the policy shop’s most active staffers quit. Although they signed non-disclosure agreements, several of them told me on background that the Trump policy effort has been a mess from start to finish. “It’s a complete disaster,” one disgruntled former adviser told me. “They use and abuse people. The policy office fell apart in August when the promised checks weren’t delivered.”

It’s not uncommon for less-experienced staffers to volunteer for a campaign (often doing field work) in the hopes that they’ll eventually be hired by it. But that doesn’t appear to be what happened here. Among the staffers who quit: J.D. Gordon, who helped organize Trump’s Jeff Sessions–led national security advisory committee; William Triplett, a conservative author and former staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Tera Dahl, a former assistant to Michele Bachmann; Ying Ma, a former senior staffer for the Ben Carson campaign; and Pratik Chougule, a former State Department employee and staffer for the Mike Huckabee campaign.

According to those who spoke with Rogin anonymously, the policy staffers were specifically led to believe it was only a matter of when, not if, they’d be compensated for their work. “It was understood that we would be paid. The campaign never discussed how much the pay would be. It was never in writing,” one staffer who quit last month told the Post (which, to be honest, is weird—who takes a job for pay without discussing pay?). “There were some people who were treating it as a full-time job. I suspect that those people were quite astonished when the pay didn’t come through.” The Trump campaign, however, denies even verbal agreements were made. (For future reference: When dealing with Donald Trump, you want to get things in writing—and even then you may be out of luck.)

Somehow both more remarkable and less surprising than a Trump enterprise allegedly failing to follow through on its promises is what appears to have been the final straw for those staffers who ultimately walked away: Trump and his inner circle more or less ignored their work altogether. According to the report, the policy shop held “two marathon work sessions” last month in preparation for the upcoming presidential debates, which included figuring out who would brief Trump in detail on specific policy topics. Trump Tower then thanked them for working overtime by informing them it was a waste of time. “The New York office realized,” according to one former adviser, “that their candidate would not be receptive to that level of intense preparation.”

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.