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Trump Cuts Ties To Operative Over Facebook Racism

A threatened lawsuit, and a messy attempt at spin — caught on tape: "We'll just tell BuzzFeed that there's no formal relationship."

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Donald Trump's presidential campaign ended its relationship with an Arizona-based politico Tuesday evening after BuzzFeed News asked about Islamophobic Facebook posts he wrote and racially charged Facebook posts about Barack and Michelle Obama.

Asked by BuzzFeed News about Aaron Borders, who identified himself on various social media profiles and his LinkedIn as Trump's Arizona state director, the Trump campaign originally falsely denied that he had any connection to the campaign.

But audio recordings provided by Borders to BuzzFeed News show Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski informing Borders of the campaign's intent to hire him. In a second recording, Lewandowski tells Borders that he is going to fire him over the Facebook posts, and in a third recording delivers a threat "to sue your fucking ass to next year."

Trump fired a longtime aide last week after Business Insider unearthed racially charged Facebook posts.

In the first taped conversation, Lewandowski asked Borders, an unsuccessful candidate for local office in 2014 who supported Rick Santorum in the last presidential election, to educate himself on the primary rules in Arizona and then to come up with a plan for victory, so that he could hire him to run the Trump campaign in the state.

"I don't know what the fuckin' rule is, dude," Lewandowski said. "You help on that. Then we say, 'Hey dude, you're the guy, you know what to do, let's start moving forward on it,' right?"

Borders did produce such a plan and was in Ohio on Tuesday, he said, to help the campaign finalize its budget and to sign his contract, when Lewandowski told him that the campaign would not only sever ties with him, but would also claim that he was no more than "an overzealous volunteer."

"It's just not something we do," Lewandowski said to Borders in the recordings, referring to him as "staff." "We don't have staff stories and we don't have staff in stories about things ... We'll just tell BuzzFeed that there's no formal relationship, that you're an overzealous volunteer, and that you're not part of the campaign in any way shape or form, regardless of what the story says."

"I just can't have this, it's a problem. It's just no good. It's negative publicity on staff. I just can't have it," he concluded.

This exchange matched the wording of an email from Trump's campaign spokesperson, Hope Hicks, who promptly replied to a request for comment by writing that "we do not have a state director in AZ. I've never heard of Aaron, but he appears to be an over-zealous volunteer. Let me know if you need anything else."

After a follow-up question about a Phoenix New Times article in which Borders says Trump personally asked him to be his "point guy" in Arizona, Hicks called BuzzFeed News again to say Borders was not a part of the campaign and he seemed to be an overzealous volunteer. Hicks added she was going to ask the Phoenix New Times for a correction.

Hicks then emailed BuzzFeed News a more lawyerly statement from Trump's campaign: "Aaron Borders is not and has never been employed by the Donald J. Trump for President campaign."

After BuzzFeed News provided the campaign a copy of Borders' recordings, Lewandowski called to elaborate:

"He has never worked for the Trump campaign, never ever. He has never been employed by and has never worked for the Trump campaign. That's factually correct," Lewandowski said. Borders also said he had not been paid by the Trump campaign.

A letter from the Arizona chair of the Republican Party Robert Graham, posted online, likewise credits Borders with helping organize the Trump campaign event.

"As you may know the Trump event was well attended thanks to leadership from Lori Klein, Aaron Borders and help from the MCRC, as well as many dedicated volunteers," the letter reads.

Borders told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that he would "take the honor of being fired by The Donald," but was upset by the campaign's refusal to admit that he had been a part of it.

"Listen, I'll take the honor of being fired by The Donald," he said. "I'll take that honor. But don't sit there and say that, 'Who's this guy? Don't know who this guy is.' That's where we have a problem. Because now you're putting my reputation as an honest, trustworthy person on the line. I've worked very hard for my reputation and I don't want that to be diminished in my state where people know, love, and trust me, and they know that, no matter what happens, even when it hurts, I'm gonna be honest."

"My world's crumbling around me right now," Borders said. "I am sitting in a hot car garage right now, trying to make sure my reputation isn't destroyed by being called a liar."

Borders, who is the second vice chairman of the Republican Party of Maricopa County, Arizona, said he didn't dispute that the Facebook posts were his. He argued that "most of it's satire" and that he was "just being a smart aleck," but said he knew the posts were "politically incorrect" and would have thought it "fair enough" if the Trump campaign had wanted to distance itself from them.

He did, however, add that Trump's rhetorical style led him to believe that the posts would not be a problem.

"I think he brought issues that everybody should've talked about, and he brought them to the forefront and that's what really drove me to support him," Borders said. "It's also why I didn't think twice about being candid myself on Facebook. Because I thought, you know, this is the kind of guy that I, you know, he's not PC. Neither am I, you know."

Borders is the second person associated with the Trump campaign to be cut off this week for posts on Facebook, after Sam Nunberg, an adviser, was fired following the unearthing of a 2007 post in which he wrote about calling Al Sharpton's daughter "N-----!".

During the interview with BuzzFeed News, Borders initially said he still liked Trump. In the same conversation in which he was fired, he proposed to Lewandowski that he could help "behind the scenes."

However, in a later interview on Tuesday night, Borders said that Lewandowski threatened to sue him, an allegation Lewandowski also denied, though an audio recording taken by Borders suggests it is true.

"No, I didn't," Lewandowski said when directly asked if he threatened to sue Borders for turning the audio of his phone conversations over to BuzzFeed News.

"I'm going to sue your fucking ass to next year, you know that, right?" Lewandowski, however, said in the recordings, arguing that Borders had illegally recorded their conversations without his consent.

The recordings show just how far Donald and the Donettes are willing to go to intimidate those they see as challenging them.

"You recorded it without my permission," Lewandowski is heard saying. "Without my consent. In New Hampshire, that's illegal. So good luck to you because recording in the state of New Hampshire, across state lines, I just want to make sure you understand that, OK? Good luck to you, my friend. Good luck."

Borders said if he wants "to sue a father of four," he should "go for it," though he doesn't think Trump would do it.

"If you want to sue a father of four, that don't make that much money a year, who works his tail off, who has already done a boatload of work for your campaign, who has not gotten paid for that work — because I was supposed to be getting some payment, OK? — you go for it. I don't think Trump will want to have a piece of that. This is Corey. This is poor management."

But the most important thing, Borders said, was for him to prove he's not a liar — and that Lewandowski is.

"So for him to say that, 'Who's this guy?'" Borders said, "that's inflammatory and that's making me out to be a liar. That's one thing I'm not. And that's why I feel like I must defend myself."

Follow the timeline of the events and listen to the recording below:

Here's the audio of Lewandowski telling Borders that he wants to hire him, after seeing a plan for a Trump victory in the Arizona primary:

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Here's the audio of Lewandowski firing Borders after being told of the Facebook posts:

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And here is their conversation:

"Yeah, we just can't have it for the campaign, dude," Lewandowski said to Borders after reading him some of his Facebook posts. "Look, there's this, plus the story [The Phoenix Times story] today that says you're the state director without talking to us, you know, we don't have a formal relationship. We're just gonna have to separate that, there's no way around it."

Borders replied that he was probably "like most guys" who shared conservative posts on Facebook.

"I mean, this goes on and on and on," Lewandowski interjected about his posts.

"It's just not something we do," Lewandowski said. "We don't have staff stories and we don't have staff in stories about things, let alone—"

"We'll just tell BuzzFeed that there's no formal relationship, that you're an overzealous volunteer and that you're not part of the campaign in any way, shape, or form, regardless of what the story says."

"I just can't have this, it's a problem. It's just no good. It's negative publicity on staff. I just can't have it," he concluded.

Lewandowski promptly called BuzzFeed News late Tuesday evening when asked if they wanted to revise their comments about not knowing who Borders was after sending the audio of Lewandowski's calls with Borders:

Here is that conversation:

"He has never worked for the Trump campaign, never ever. He has never been employed by and has never worked for the Trump campaign. He has never been paid by the campaign as you know if required by law. That's factually correct."

Asked about his phone call with Borders, Lewandowski said that he was a volunteer.

"I didn't say I know who he was. Hope may not have known who he was. He's an overzealous volunteer who organized an event in Phoenix where Mr. Trump appeared. He has never worked for the campaign. He has never been paid by the campaign."

"We have never had a relationship with the guy whatsoever," stated Lewandowski who said he had never threatened to sue Borders for turning over audio to BuzzFeed News.

Asked about the phone call where they discussed adding Borders to campaign, Lewandowski said "it was never consummated." He said Borders was like many other people who helped bring to Trump's event in Arizona where he discussed undocumented immigration.

Lewandowski said Borders apologized to him for the "mischaracterization" of his role.

But Borders also provided BuzzFeed News with tape of the conversation in which Lewandowski threatened to sue him:

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Here's the write-up:

"You know in New Hampshire," Lewandowski said to Borders, "you need two-party consent to record a phone conversation. You record my phone conversation, I'm going to sue your fucking ass to next year, you know that, right?

"Well, you know what?" Borders answered. "The reality is you're telling people you never even knew me."

"No," Lewandowski said. "What I said was you don't work for us."

"I'm in New Hampshire right now," he continued. "I want to be very, very clear that that's what you said and you recorded by phone conversation without my prior consent. That's a felony. And I'd be happy — absolutely happy — to put that on audio, OK?"

Borders said, "Well, I'm just saying you were telling that you say you ain't knew who I am. And I know that's not true."

"Aaron, Aaron, Aaron. You posted racist Facebook—" Lewandowski said, at which point the audio becomes in audible.

"I never denied those posts," Borders reminded him. "I never denied them."

"That's right," Lewandowski agreed. "But you recorded it without my permission. Without my consent and in New Hampshire, that's illegal. So good luck to you, because recording in the state of New Hampshire, across state lines, I just want to make sure you understand that, OK? Good luck to you, my friend. Good luck."

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.

Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at ilan.ben-meir@buzzfeed.com.

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