|White House Director of Political Affairs|
January 20, 2017 – December 7, 2018
|Preceded by||David Simas|
|Succeeded by||Brian Jack|
|Born||January 3, 1978|
|Education||Rutgers University, New Brunswick (BA)|
Bill Stepien (born January 3, 1978) is an American political consultant who served as the campaign manager for Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign beginning in July of that year. A member of the Republican Party, he was the White House Director of Political Affairs in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018.
After Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, Stepien joined the presidential campaign in August 2016 and was later named the White House political director during the Trump presidential transition.
Born to a family of Polish and German origin, Stepien graduated from West Morris Central High School and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Stepien began his political career working on Anthony Bucco's 1997 State Senate campaign, and on Bob Franks' 2000 U.S. Senate race. He worked for Public Opinion Strategies and DuHaime Communications before managing Bill Baroni's 2003 bid for New Jersey State Assembly—the only Republican to oust a Democratic incumbent that year.
Stepien served as Political Director of the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign in New Hampshire, and as Director of the Republican National Committee's 72-Hour Campaign in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, he was a Regional Campaign Manager for Senator John S. McCain's presidential campaign before serving as National Field Director, a role in which he also served for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in 2007-08. He also served in the same role for Presidential hopeful Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Campaign.
Campaign and administration
Stepien served as campaign manager in Chris Christie's successful campaign for Governor of New Jersey in 2009. Christie's first major announcement after winning the election was the naming of four top staffers, including Stepien as a Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. In April 2013, Stepien resigned from that position to become the manager of Christie's re-election campaign. His replacement as Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs was Bridget Anne Kelly.
On January 7, 2014, Christie announced that he wanted Stepien to take over the chairmanship of the New Jersey Republican Party from Sam Raia. On January 7, 2014, Christie said, "I’ve asked Bill Stepien to be our new State Party Chairman because no one better understands how to grow our party, communicate our message and, most importantly, win elections... Bill Stepien is the best Republican operative in the country, and New Jersey Republicans will be fortunate to have him leading our Party."
Fort Lee lane closure scandal
On January 9, two days after nominating Stepien for the chairmanship of the New Jersey Republican Party, Christie announced that he had "lost my confidence in Bill's judgment," and he asked Stepien to withdraw his name from consideration. The turnaround was a result of Stepien's work on Christie's re-election campaign, where he became embroiled in the Fort Lee lane closure scandal to the George Washington Bridge.
Investigators eventually discovered that Stepien was in a romantic relationship with Bridget Kelly, his replacement as Christie's deputy chief of staff. Their relationship lasted until August 2013, as the plan to close the lanes was being implemented. Though their personal relationship was over, Stepien was kept abreast of the lane closures and the intended fallout. It was the emails between Stepien and those involved in the lane closures that sealed his fate. Christie said, "I was disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the emails by my former campaign manager, Bill Stepien."
Two months after losing Christie's confidence, Stepien made a "soft landing" at the data and phone bank giant FLS Connect, which hired him to work on sales and strategy. Stepien then received a subpoena to submit documents to the New Jersey Legislature panel investigating in the lane closures. In a 19-page letter sent to Reid Schar, special counsel to the joint Senate and Assembly committee, Stepien's lawyer cited Stepien’s Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination, noting that in addition to the legislative probe, a federal criminal inquiry into the lane closures was also underway.
Judge Jacobson of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that Stepien was not required to comply with the legislative subpoenas to produce documents since they were written too broadly, and he was also protected under the Fifth Amendment. In May his lawyer also contended that a report produced on behalf of the Governor's Office misrepresented his client.
Stepien's firm, Nassau Strategies LLC, is based out of a residential home on Knob Hill Road in Washington Township, Morris County, New Jersey. The firm benefited from Christie's chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, as did many other New Jersey-based consulting firms. In December 2013, the RGA paid Stepien's firm $15,000, just a month before Christie cut ties with Stepien. On December 8, 2014, GOPAC made a retainer payment of $6,000 to Nassau Strategies for political strategy consulting.
Trump's campaign and administration
In August 2016 Stepien was hired to work for the Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016. Stepien was named the White House political director on January 20, 2017. In December 2018, Stepien and White House Director of Public Liaison Justin Clark were named Senior Political Advisors to the President's re-election campaign focusing on delegate and party organization.
In 2019, Stepien, along with Trump, worked to convince New Jersey Democratic congressman Jeff Van Drew to switch to the Republican Party during the Impeachment of Donald Trump. In December 2019, Van Drew hired Stepien as an adviser to his 2020 re-election campaign. On July 15, 2020, Trump announced Stepien's promotion to campaign manager for Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, replacing Brad Parscale.
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- Berkley, Sheila. "Statement from FLS Connect Partner and President Sheila Berkley, FLS Connect, March 18, 2014. Accessed: May 2, 2015.
- Grant, Jason (January 31, 2014). "Bill Stepien's lawyer objects to legislative subpoena in bridge scandal, requests its withdrawal". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- "Attorney says longtime Christie adviser Bill Stepien will invoke Fifth Amendment". The Washington Post. January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
- Boburg, Shawn (April 9, 2014). "Judge: Christie ex-aides Kelly, Stepien can withhold documents in GWB probe". The Record. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
- "Attorney for Christie campaign manager demands retraction on GWB report".
- "Stepien's attorney says new Christie bridge scandal report bolsters client's claims".
- Mason, Melanie, "'Bridgegate' witness implicates top Trump staffer in plan to snarl traffic", Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2016.
- Racioppi, Dustin, "Bridgegate Trial: Former top Christie aide Stepien accused of knowing about lane closure plan", NorthJersey.com, September 26, 2016.
- Haddon, Heather. "Christie Aims GOP Work at N.J. Firms, The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2014. Accessed: May 2, 2015.
- IRS, "Form 8872: Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures", GOPAC Inc, December 31, 2014.
- Friedman, Matt (September 2, 2014). "Bridge scandal: Former Christie aide Bill Stepien is working for Republicans again". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
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- Haberman, Maggie, and Kate Zernike, "Donald Trump’s Campaign Hires Ex-Christie Aide to Bolster Political Operation", The New York Times, August 26, 2016.
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- Jacobs, Ben (December 23, 2019). "Why New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew Ditched the Democrats and Sided With Trump". New York Magazine. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- Salant, Jonathan D. (December 27, 2019). "He helped elect Christie and Trump. Now Bill Stepien is trying to return Van Drew to Congress". NJ.com. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Trump shakes up campaign team, replaces manager with N.J. political operative". NJ.com. July 16, 2020. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
- Isenstadt, Alex. "Trump campaign manager tests positive for Covid-19". POLITICO. Retrieved October 3, 2020.