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Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort: Ted Cruz 'made a mistake' at RNC

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, said Thursday that Ted Cruz showed "very bad judgment" when he failed to endorse the party's nominee.
/ Source: TODAY

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, said Thursday that Ted Cruz showed "very bad judgment" when he failed to endorse the party’s nominee during his prime-time speech from the GOP convention floor.

“I think he made a mistake. I think he was not respectful of the invitation by the convention to come and speak,” Manafort told TODAY's Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. “He understood what the responsibilities are of somebody in his position. He didn’t meet them.”

Cruz was Trump’s fiercest Republican primary rival when he dropped out of the presidential race. The Texas senator had yet to endorse Trump by the time he was asked to speak at the party’s convention in Cleveland.

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Given his prime-time speaking spot Wednesday night, Cruz was widely expected to finally endorse Trump. Instead, he merely urged Republicans to “vote your conscience” in a speech that upstaged the formal introduction of Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Manafort said that when Trump invited his primary opponents to speak at the convention, "his invitations had no conditions," but that speakers understood what their roles were to be.

"Ted Cruz took a different path," he said.

But Manafort said Cruz’s speech did not hurt the momentum of the Trump campaign.

"As far as I’m concerned, the party is unified. Last night, despite what Sen. Cruz did, the party came together because they’ve seen Donald Trump is making an effort," he said.

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Manafort also was asked about the speech delivered Monday by Melania Trump, who was criticized for plagiarizing passages from a 2008 Democratic convention address given by Michelle Obama.

On Wednesday, a writer who worked for Trump’s private company stepped forward to take blame for penning his wife’s speech. Manafort, who initially blamed Hillary Clinton for the plagiarism allegations, continue to shrug off the controversy.

“This was somebody who wasn’t part of the campaign. And I didn’t even know she was part of the process,” he said on TODAY.

He insisted that no one, including Melania Trump, realized that her speech included words lifted from the first lady’s 2008 speech.

“I did not know. I was told by Mrs. Trump, and I believe Mrs. Trump, and I don’t think Mrs. Trump, that she personally put those words in that speech,” he said.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.