OFF THE RECORD: Bill Lee’s Anti-Trump Chief of Staff Blake Harris Setting the Personnel Agenda

President Donald Trump carried 92 of Tennessee’s 95 counties against Hillary Clinton in 2016 with a 61 percent to 35 percent margin. He retains an extraordinarily high approval rating among Tennessee Republicans, polling consistently above 84 percent. Trump’s support for Marsha Blackburn was a critical factor in her 11 point victory gap over Democrat Phil Bredesen in the 2018 Senate race.

During his primary campaign for Governor, Bill Lee embraced Donald Trump and even ran a television ad that pointed out that Trump has been “so effective” because he’s a “businessman, not a politician.” Trump’s endorsement of Lee in the general election, along with the endorsement of key in-state Trump supporters like former State Senator Mae Beavers, helped Lee to a 20 plus point margin over Karl Dean. 

The 2018 Republican Primary for Governor ended up with Lee prevailing over Diane “Too Swamp” Black and Randy “Too Moderate” Boyd because — like Goldilocks selecting a bed — he was “just right” for Christian conservatives and Trump voters in the state. You might think that Governor-elect Lee would be setting the foundations for his policy agenda by appointing those who were ideologically aligned with Candidate Lee to top positions in his Administration. You would be wrong.

As noted earlier in The Tennessee Star, Lee’s pick for heading his transition, filling out his Cabinet and serving as the COO for his Administration is Democrat Butch Eley.  Eley donated $1350 to Democrat Bredesen’s campaign earlier this year as he faced Republican Marsha Blackburn in a critical battle for control of the U.S. Senate. Eley’s donation aligned him with other Bredesen donors like liberal Democrats Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Bloomberg, and a long list of others. More importantly it put him in step with Bredesen’s anti-Trump views on immigration and tax cuts, which Bredesen termed as mere “crumbs.”  Tennessee conservatives really count on Lee’s team to pursue conservative policies when the team is being assembled by someone who opposes those policies?

Lee’s election for Chief of Staff, Alabama-based Republican political consultant Blake Harris has an even more anti-Trump track record. Not only has Harris counted noted anti-Trump Republicans like Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby among his clients, his own tweets from the 2016 election cycle reveal his views of President Trump with absolute clarity.

On October 8, 2016 Harris retweeted Roby’s statement that she would not vote for Trump for President, a promise Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam made at the time as well.

A few weeks later, on November 3, Harris commented on a Politico story quoting Trump as praising the bravery of military generals and then saying: “I’m brave in other ways. I’m financially brave.” Harris noted: “Certainly brave to say something so stupid out loud.”

The day before the election between Trump and Clinton, Harris tweeted his assessment of the two candidates: “Well, two years and a billion dollars and we get these two losers. Shame on all of us. Let’s do better next time.”

To emphasize the point Harris tweeted the next day: “Went to the polls today for the first time as an undecided voter. Very strange.”

His early election day criticism of Trump was particularly interesting, having already predicted that Hillary would win by 2.5%: “Killing me: That Trump is so untrustworthy and some Repubs are committed to him ONLY bc of who he SAYS he would appoint to Supreme Court.”

(Have Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh made him more appreciative of Trump?)

And finally, just hours before the polls opened Harris tweeted: “One thing about tomorrow is that either way @realDonaldTrump can stop pretending to be a Republican.”

Harris hasn’t yet tweeted his view of whether the absence of conservative Trump supporters on Team Lee will provide Lee the opportunity to “stop pretending to be a conservative.”

It has been said that “actions speak louder than words.” The words of Lee Chief of Staff Blake Harris about President Trump may simply reflect the reasons for the actions of Lee in ignoring Trump supporters and voters as he has assembled the senior leadership of his Administration. Or, Bill Lee may be ignorant of what is being done by those he has charged with filling out the personnel who will formulate and promote his policy agenda. Neither of which should fill conservative voters with much hope for what the Lee Administration will do.








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11 Thoughts to “OFF THE RECORD: Bill Lee’s Anti-Trump Chief of Staff Blake Harris Setting the Personnel Agenda”

  1. […] Director of External Affairs, Joseph Williams who, like Bill Hagerty,, was a Jeb! delegate, and his chief of staff anti-Trumper Blake […]

  2. […] and anti-Marsha Blackburn composition of Lee’s senior staff, including Chief of Staff Blake Harris and Chief Operating Officer Butch Eley, who donated to $1350 to Democrat Phil Bredesen in his […]

  3. Ralph

    Attributed to a German genera of the WWI eral: there are 4 qualities to observe in selecting officers for assignment, every officer has two: they are either clever or stupid, and either industrious or lazy. The clever and industrious are ideally suited for staff positions, use can be made of the stupid and lazy. Clever and lazy officers are best for the highest command, they have the nerve and temperaments to manage any eventuality. The stupid and industrious are a danger to all and need to be removed immediately.

    Governor-elect Lee ran on a platform of good jobs, better schools, and safer neighborhoods. To the extent that he succeeds in that is the metric by which he should be evaluated. Whether or not he meets some contrived litmus test of being “conservative” is, by and large, irrelevant.

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      In other words, if Bill Lee was able to secure more access to abortions in Tennessee, triple the tax burden on the average citizen, greatly increase regulations on the average citizen in order fight “climate change” that would be just fine with the Ralph just as long as Lee’s tenure was marked by “. . .good jobs, better schools, and safer neighborhoods.” Sort of reminds me of the defense of the regime of Benito Mussolini before World War II. Upon hearing complaints about the Italian government’s interfering with the rights of the people Mussolini’s defenders would blithely shrug and reply, “Yea, but he sure made the Italian trains run on time.” Lord keep us safe from such an apparatchik mentality.

  4. Robert Johnston

    Looks like Lee is another RINO pretending to be a conservative. Hopefully He is not another lying politician.

  5. Stuart I. Anderson

    I tried to warn conservatives whose top priority is voting for candidates who would govern as conservatives not to vote for No Record Candidates like Bill Lee. I have no doubt that I will have many an opportunity, using Bill Lee as a perfect example, of reminding my fellow conservatives to not support No Record Candidates no matter how wealthy and/or telegenic as we head toward the 2020 Republican primaries. Please conservatives, as you eventually suffer voter’s remorse for having voted for Lee, go public admitting your mistake while taking an oath to never again be hoodwinked by a No Record Candidate.

  6. Benny Jones

    I highly doubt Black Harris or anyone else for that matter will be setting any agenda for the Lee Administration. Bill is a very competent manager who will surround himself with other competent individuals to carry out policy as set by The Governor………….

    1. 83ragtop50

      Then why is Mr. Lee surrounding himself with these people?

  7. Sherrie Gale Orange

    I am very disappointed in Lee’s cabinet position selections. I bet the democrats are satisfied, though.

  8. Josh Read

    Tennessee too has a swamp problem. It’s called the Ingram Group, Adams & Reece Government and the skimming Haslams.

    Bill Lee would be well advised to put an end to monied politics immediately.

    On faith, hard right conservatives put Lee in office over Black & Boyd.
    He should not let them down. They will not forget.

  9. CCW

    Ask Lamar if he will support Trump’s “Steel Slats” construction along length of southern border of U.S., if the bill, appropriations, etc., reaches the Senate for a vote.