Kellyanne Conway held a key role in Donald Trump’s inner circle as a Senior Counselor to the president before she left the White House in the wake of family drama. In 2018, her lawyer husband, George Conway, began tweeting harsh criticism of Trump — calling him “a cancer” and his administration “a s–tshow in a dumpster fire” — and co-founding a now-defunct Super PAC, the Lincoln Project, to stop the president’s re-election. (For his part, Trump called Conway the “husband from hell.”) Meanwhile, the couple’s teen daughter Claudia, one of their four children, began speaking out against Trump and clashing with her parents on TikTok in 2020, at one point saying she was “pushing for emancipation.” Today, Kellyanne and George — who are still married but not living together — go “back and forth” between their homes and children, Conway told The Post. This week, she published a memoir, “Here’s The Deal” (Threshold Editions), that chronicles all this and more, writing of her spouse: “I was looking at the possibility that the man who had always had my back might one day stab me in it.” Here, she talks to The Post’s Salena Zito about, among other things, “losing my husband to Twitter.”
New York Post: You have a chapter in the book titled “George doesn’t tweet” about the first time your husband George took a swipe at your boss, the President of the United States, and how that moment really took you by surprise.
Conway: What was shocking about that tweet looking back it came shortly after [George] took his name out of contention for Justice, Civil Division with a statement that read: “I called the President to take my name out. I sent him full support, it’s great working in the administration, and of course my wonderful wife.” And five days later, he tweeted it. So it was all very confusing. That’s why I said, “Well, he doesn’t tweet. And he wouldn’t say that.” He wasn’t being consistent with his own actions.
What is very galling … I think it was like the summer of 2018 he was telling the Michael Isikoff “Skullduggery” podcast, “Oh, I knew that this administration was a s–t show and a dumpster fire by April of that year.” And I was like, “Really? Because then you came to Easter, then you came to Halloween, then you came to a very intimate dinner with the Kushners.
The Post: There are some pretty raw moments in the book when you confront George about his behavior by telling him he is the only person you made vows to.
Conway: I didn’t make vows of fidelity to Donald Trump, and I don’t expect George to make vows of fidelity to Donald Trump; but to “love, honor, and cherish” means exactly that. And that’s where I felt like he was violating our marriage vows. I had a job he supported.
[The betrayal was him] being so public about it: “I can cash you in for attention.” I like to say, I lost my husband to Twitter, and she’s not even hot, has no personality. George and I … always took our marriage vows very seriously. We are faithful in our marriage.
I think it’s a 21st century problem, in that the competition for my husband’s affection and attention wasn’t another woman, it was a whole platform.
The Post: Are you still together?
Conway: We’re married.
The Post: How are the kids?
Conway: The kids are great. Their father and I just go back and forth [between houses] … so somebody’s always there with them. We’re doing that so that they can be in the schools where they want to be. [The oldest children] wanted to finish their academic careers where they started. And I can’t be that mom who says to my kids, “Be your own person, chart your own path,” and then tell them where they need to live, and what they need to do. I tell their father, “It’s not like we’re driving kids to chemotherapy, we’re not to complain. We can do this.”
I think my kids have more discretion and judgment and resilience and self-possession than the adults [in the media] who were … trying to treat my children like they were already adults.
The Post: Are you talking about journalist Taylor Lorenz, then at the New York Times, interviewing your then 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, without either of her parents’ permission?
Nothing about it was right. There’s this unspoken social construct and [the Times] blew it away for kicks and clicks. And I think this was all manifestation, a very extreme and cruel manifestation of what had become very clear from the moments Donald Trump won: that the media’s job of getting the story was quickly going to become getting the president.
The Post: There is a moment in the book where you describe the terror you felt when you realized Claudia was trending on Twitter.
Conway: People wanted me to be angry with Claudia: “Take away her phone, punish her.” My first and enduring feeling about all of it was sheer terror. I feared that this awful Taylor Lorenz and other irresponsible people in mainstream media have put a target on my family’s back.
She [was] 15. Here is somebody who can’t drive, can’t vote, can’t get her ears pierced or see an R-rated movie without a parent’s permission. And yet, [Lorenz thought] it’s appropriate to contact her directly and wave in front of her what every teenager craves.
The Post: You write about how you persevered through the boys club — Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner. They seemed to get in your way a lot.
Conway: They did. And I had been used to manhandling jealous little boys my entire life. I was raised by these strong, Italian Catholic women … But I was also accustomed to having worked in Republican polling, which is a male-dominated industry.
My message to working women is … don’t make a big deal when the men exclude you. Just outclass, outsmart and outwork them, and everyone will notice. Eventually life is a meritocracy.
[Men] would exclude me from certain meetings or situations or conversations, and then voilà, the president would just assume I was in there and ask me my opinion.
It was like, “Thanks for excluding me from that 20-person meeting that leaked anyway, because the president called and asked me right before he made the decision.”
For [Bannon, Priebus and Kushner], it was safety in numbers. They behaved like a political throuple a lot of the time. They were co-dependent on each other.
And then different factions would form. So first it was Bannon and Jared, and then Bannon got mad one day and called [Kushner’s wife] “Princess Ivanka.”
President Trump expected and America needed a cohesive, competent team … But I feel like some people made it much more difficult, and let’s just say, some people enjoyed that they had authority but not accountability.
The Post: In the book, you never tattle to the president.
Conway: I just dealt with it … I didn’t want to tattle to the president, I wanted to try to make it better.
It’s like with George, I just always think you can make it better. Honestly, it comes from growing up without a father. My Aunt Marie, God rest her soul, would tell me, “You would wait for your father to come pick you up. You would stand on the radiator, and every time a truck went by, you’d say, ‘Daddy’s here. Daddy’s here,’ and he never came.”
I eventually had a loving relationship with my father for 40 years before he died a couple years ago. I met him when I was 12 and we were great.
But from the time I was younger, I wanted to be a bit of a peacemaker, a problem-solver. Don’t distract the President of the United States with pettiness.
I’m one of the few people who left [the White House] on her own terms … and remains a part of the president’s inner circle. I’m probably one of a handful of people in this country who speak regularly with Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Chris Christie. Those relationships are intact because they’re based on mutual respect. And in my case, [I gave] a great deal of deference to those who were in real positions of authority.
The Post: After the president lost in 2020, you talked about how he should have listed his accomplishments more while campaigning.
Conway: I feel that elections are about the future, not the past. But … people are saying, “Things were better, and I want to get it back.” The best thing to talk about is what [things] were like when he was in charge. Infants had formula to eat. You could go to the gas pump for $50, not $120. Supply containers weren’t sitting in the ocean. Putin was not in Ukraine. NATO was paying its dues. Israel was better protected. The trade deals, the manufacturing base, the coal miners, the energy, energy independent, all of that, all of that was better. That’s one way to talk about the past.
The Post: As the first woman to ever run a successful presidential campaign, would you ever want to do it again?
Conway: My future in politics rests on where my best and highest use is. But I’ll tell you, I’m like many Americans — even if you temporarily hung up your cleats, you just can’t ignore the need in [our] everyday lives. The lack of security, the lack of affordability, just the fraughtness that we all feel. Things are so teetering and tender. It’s very hard to ignore the need across this country.
The Post: So what’s next for you?
Conway: For the afterword of the book the publishers asked me to really think about how we can unify the country. We did this in 2016, but one great way of converting or really finding new voters is to not talk to them about politics at all, and to understand that people don’t want to wear the red, white and blue uniforms 24/7, 365. They don’t own politics in every conversation and consideration …
So talk to them about the things that matter to them. [Often] the conversation starts with politics and it doesn’t go anywhere.
The other thing I would say is, we have all these cultural cleavages now: People who want to spend their lives mostly offline, where it smells, tastes, looks and is better, and people who are living lives mostly online. And we don’t know how to communicate with each other.
People are very quick to make a snap judgment and label each other … It’s really time just to try to get to know each other.