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How Trump Took Control of the GOP: The Definitive Oral History

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Insider interviewed 22 people in front row seats in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries. We gathered colorful anecdotes and untold details about the historic campaign. Together they tell the story of how Trump became the King of the GOP, a crown he still wears to this day. Loading Something is loading.

Five years after the Republican presidential primary and the 2016 national convention, candidates and staff are still figuring out how much has changed and what hasn’t changed with Trump’s GOP.

That’s why Insider has embarked on an oral history project over the past few months to document a truly bizarre period in American history, when the line between politics and entertainment blurred.

To refresh our memories, we spoke to 22 key insiders who played a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential race about Trump’s unprecedented primary campaign and how he managed to mount a hostile GOP takeover that still endures today.

Read More: The Definitive Oral History of How Trump Took Over the GOP, As Cruz, Rubio & 20 Other Insiders Told Us

Our oral history traces Trump’s victory over 16 other notable Republicans from 2015 to 2016, including Jeb Bush and his monster $ 100 million war chest, rising senators like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and the pugnacious governor of New Jersey Chris Christie.

Some of the highlights you’ll remember, like Trump’s infamous escalator. Others you may never have known: he almost took the elevator! and after the Iowa caucuses, some assistants met with Jesus to convince him that the election results had to be accepted.

Ultimately, we found out how many times it seemed the Trump campaign was on the verge of catastrophic implosion, and how social media shaped our memories of the noisy primary process in ways that, in hindsight, didn’t has not always lived up to reality.

We also laid bare the tangle of tensions and disagreements among staff that have become emblematic of the apprentice-style governance that Trump has brought to his White House. Former campaign officials have very different memories of how the 13-month trip to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland went.

Check out the full oral history of the Trump takeover and our additional stories here:

A former Trump aide admitted that the 2016 campaign paid actors to appear in its big 2015 presidential campaign ad after turning it down on Insider five years ago. The Trump team’s pre-debate preparation included a “party” with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. His group still slapped Trump with a threat to sue later, however. Melania Trump agreed with her then-Sen husband. John McCain was not a “war hero”. A member of Bill Clinton’s staff must have spoken to the ex-president about the infamous 2016 Trump-Rubio debate on penis size. Trump’s aides told him over a McDonald’s meal to stop complaining about the loss of the Iowa caucus in 2016. Key moments Ted Cruz tried to steal the 2016 nomination from Trump. Trump’s future DOJ spokesperson said Republicans who lost to Trump in 2016 reminded her of the people who lost to Hitler. To read Trump’s full oral history story, click here.

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