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Trump Taps D.C. Lawyer Who Vetted Palin for VP Search

NBC News confirms that A.B. Culvahouse, a partner in the firm O'Melveny & Myers, will lead the process.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a fundraising event in Lawrenceville, New Jersey on May 19, 2016.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has hired the same D.C. power lawyer who vetted Sarah Palin in 2008 to conduct the legal review of his potential running mate.

NBC News confirms that A.B. Culvahouse, a partner in the firm O'Melveny & Myers, will lead the process of sifting through financial, legal and other background materials submitted by potential candidates before Trump finalizes his choice for second-in-command.

Trump personally met Culvahouse Wednesday in New York after the Trump campaign reached out to at least two DC-based law firms in an effort to find the best counsel for the job.

After John McCain made a last-minute choice to add Palin to his vice presidential search in 2008, Culvahouse was left with a matter of days to vet the Alaska governor. Palin was widely seen as a fatally flawed vice presidential candidate after past scandals and a lack of message discipline quickly became clear during McCain’s general election bid.

But Trump campaign sources say the real estate mogul received assurances from Culvahouse this week that the vetting process this cycle would be sufficiently thorough, with eight weeks to go until the start of the GOP convention.

The move to hire Culvahouse comes amid other adjustments in Trump’s campaign hierarchy.

On Thursday, the campaign announced an expanded role for Paul Manafort, a longtime GOP operative originally hired to manage delegate selection and preparations for a possible contested convention in July. Now that Trump has secured the nomination outright, Manafort’s role has expanded to more general election priorities like polling and advertising, changes reflected by his new title of “campaign chairman and chief strategist.”

Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, tells NBC News that the change does not mean that his responsibilities will change.

A Trump loyalist since the beginning of the billionaire's campaign, Lewandowski enjoys direct access to the candidate and a relationship of trust that dates back long before Trump's rise to the top of the GOP primary contenders. He will continue to coordinate the VP selection process, long term planning and other key personnel decisions.

Still, sources at different levels say there has been tension internally about the campaign hierarchy, in part because Trump has encouraged competition between members of his inner circle.

Operatives within the campaign also note a generational divide between Lewandowski and other senior aides, who still refer to their boss as "Mr. Trump,” and Manafort, who chooses to address him as "Donald."