Who is Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and why is she quitting so close to the election?

Outspoken White House adviser cites personal reasons in decision to step aside

Gino Spocchia
Monday 24 August 2020 11:55 BST
Kellyanne Conway says if people can line up for cupcakes they can line up to vote

The White House counsellor to the US president, Kellyanne Conway, has announced that she will step down at the end of this month.

The 53-year-old said personal reasons had led her to announce on Sunday night that she would no longer serve as an adviser to Donald Trump, a position she has held since 2016.

In a surprise move less than a day before the Republican National Convention (RNC) begins on Monday, Ms Conway said her decision was “completely my choice,” and that she would announce future plans “in time”.

Her husband, George Conway, will also temporarily take leave from the Lincoln Project – a Republican political campaign group that has launched scathing attacks on the US president in recent months.

“We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids,” wrote Ms Conway in a letter shared online. “For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama.”

Despite the announcement on Sunday, she is still due to speak at this week’s convention – which will see Mr Trump accept his nomination as the party’s 2020 presidential candidate.

Ms Conway's association with the current president started when she was named manager of the Trump 2016 election campaign, becoming the first woman to lead a successful US presidential bid.

She was rewarded with a position in the White House as senior counsellor to the US president, making her the highest-ranking woman in Mr Trump's administration, and she has been among the president's closest and longest-serving officials in the nearly four years since.

The long-time Republican operative and pollster first joined the campaign team of Senator Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican primary, before replacing Stephen Bannon as Trump campaign chairman; Mr Bannon was indicted two days ago for fraud.

Ms Conway, by comparison, continued to be a trusted voice within the West Wing and spearheaded several initiatives, including on combating opioid abuse.

She was perhaps best known for her at-times controversial media appearances to defend the president and condemn his critics.

Those rebuttals included coining the phrase “alternative facts” in 2017 to explain what appeared to be exagerrated estimates of the crowd size at Mr Trump's inauguration.

On another occasion, Ms Conway was accused of breaching ethics guidelines after she used a Fox News appearance to encourage Americans to purchase products developed by the president’s daughter and aide, Ivanka Trump.

And she has come under fire in recent months as she has tried to defend the US government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Writing on Sunday, she insisted that “President Trump’s leadership has had a measurable, positive impact on the peace and prosperity of the nation”, even as the country has suffered more Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths than any other nation.

Speaking in April, she also appeared to misunderstand or misconstrue what the common name for the new coronavirus, Covid-19, means, when she said “this is Covid-19, not Covid-1 folks”.

In the same month, Ms Conway also supported Mr Trump’s push-back against social distancing and state-wide lockdowns during the pandemic, when she complained that: “In Michigan, you can basically smoke your grass but not cut your grass. This makes no sense to many people.”

“Some of these governors have basically physically distanced from common sense,” added the adviser.

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