Katie Couric interview with Stephanie CegielskiThe 180-degree flip-flop of Stephanie Cegielski on the Donald Trump candidacy, as expressed on Katie Couric’s Yahoo New Live show March 29, puts the focus on legal training and Cegielski’s background at PR Society of America.

Cegielski, a 2006 graduate of the University of Denver Law School, is seeing things in legal terms—“our side” vs. “their side,” plaintiff and defendant, guilty or not guilty, admissible and not admissible in court. There is no in between. The complete transcript of Couric’s 20-minute interview with Cegielski is below.

Cegielski was therefore able to go from all-out support of Trump to condemnation of him in what Couric said was in “incredibly harsh” terms—“simply a television character”…”a real estate-fueled celebrity”…”only cares about Trump”…”not leaderly”…no “solid policy statements.”

She was initially attracted to Trump because she thought he was a “straight shooter” and would take “the high road.”

Did Cegielski Take “High Road” at PRSA?

Since Cegielski is such a fan of “the high road,” we wonder why she did not take that at the PR Society of America where she spent three years until last July including two as associate PR director and the last year as VP-PR.

Instead, she became a willing enforcer of the Society’s anti-press policies that included blocking the press from coverage of its Assembly from 2011-2013 and forbidding, since 2010, any recording of the Assembly by reporters under threat of being permanently barred from them. We never talked to Cegielski on the phone nor met her in person in New York during her three years at the Society. We met her briefly at conferences in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., when she blocked our entrance to the exhibit hall and monitored an O’Dwyer exhibit that had been set up in the lobbies of two Marriott hotels (since the Society refused to sell exhibit space to the O’Dwyer Co.).

Cegielski must have known about the “beat-you-to-a-pulp” threat to Jack O’Dwyer by an Assembly delegate at the 2010 conference in Washington, D.C.

She was no doubt aware of the blatant anti-New York policies of national leadership dominated by Accredited members (who hold 16 of the 17 board seats) that has resulted in one national conference in New York since 1992—a 24-year period. Nor are any planned for the future. Meanwhile, the conference has been in Washington, D.C., twice (2010 and 2014) and Philadelphia twice (2007 and 2013).

The New York chapter accepts this and other instances of being treated like a “poor cousin” including the 2004 move of h.q. downtown to 33 Maiden lane after being in midtown and midtown South from the Society’s founding in 1947 to 2004.

Neither O’Dwyer reporters nor any reporters are allowed access to the annual audit published each April. Adequate coverage of the Society is not possible without access to the financials in a timely fashion. Reporters are barred from joining the Society and therefore to the 22,000 membership list. Up until 2005, when the members’ directory was discontinued, free copies of the directory were sent to many reporters and provided to any who asked for it.

Laura Kane, who was named chief communications officer of the Society earlier this month, has continued to enforce the O’Dwyer boycott, refusing to respond to phone calls or emails. She must be aware of the Society’s history with the press and New York chapter and its refusal to provide timely financials to reporters.

She spent most of her career, from 2003-2014, with Aflac insurance in Atlanta, rising to VP-corporate communications. She was at Marsh (insurance) in New York from October 2014 to March 2016 (18 months) as global head of media relations and external affairs.

Since Cegielski was from Denver and Kane is from Atlanta, the inference is that no New York PR executives can be found to head the PR function at the Society.

Following is a transcript of the Couric/Cegielski interview.

Katie Couric: Hi, everyone. I’m Katie Couric. And this is Yahoo News Live. It is a very public case of buyers’ remorse. And it’s gone viral. The former communications director for the short-lived Make America Great Again Super PAC which backed Donald Trump wrote an open letter to Trump supporters saying, he is the wrong man for the job. Stephanie Cegielski wrote that letter for the website xoJane and she’s joining us here in New York to tell us more about it. Thanks for stopping by. We appreciate it.

Stephanie Cegielski: Thank you.

K: Nice to see you, Stephanie. So first of all, tell us how you became involved in the Trump campaign.

S: Well, I began early last year. I was recommended for, to speak with the campaign about being their communications director. And so I had a series of meetings with some of the advisors, interviews if – they interviewed me to see if I’d be a suitable candidate. And that went on through the middle of June. I never worked for the campaign. I was not chosen to be the communications director, which was fine with me. But at the end of July I was asked by another individual if I would join the Super PAC.

K: And tell us who you met with at the Trump campaign.

S: In May and June I met with Michael Cohen, who is a senior official within the Trump organization, and had a long meeting with him. I also met with Corey Lewandowski who is Trump’s campaign manager.

K: And we should mention parenthetically that Corey Lewandowski was just charged with simple battery in connection with the assault of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields by the Jupiter, Florida Police Department. We can actually – we have, I guess, a video or a still of – both of what they’ve released in terms of what happened, footage from the incident, which happened back in March. So, Corey Lewandowski was one of the people you had multiple meetings with. Is that right?

S: I did. I met with him on at least two occasions, maybe three.

K: And so what did he and Michael Cohen tell you about Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations?

S: When I first met with Corey I asked him specifically – I said is, is Donald Trump serious about running for president? Because all the speculation was that he was just looking for attention, you know. And I, I believed that maybe he was, ‘cause he had made the, the comments before that he wanted to run for president and never did. And he said he was very serious.

K: You believed that he was serious about running for president?

S: I, I wanted to make sure he was serious. And Corey said, yes, he is serious about it this time. And at which point I said, okay, well, let’s con, let’s continue the conversations. Because if he’s serious, then I’m serious. I then went on to meet with Michael Cohen, and we had long discussions about, you know, how I would approach being the communications director, what the goals were. And at the time, as I mention in the letter, their goal was to get him to poll in double digits. I don’t think anybody there or outside ever believed that he would do what he’s been doing over the last eight months.

K: But does that necessarily mean he wasn’t serious about becoming president?

S: Well, and I can’t speak… I, I have not met Donald Trump. I cannot speak to whether or not he personally was serious. But the thought process of the people within the organization, the people within the campaign was, if we can make him the number two man at the end of the primary process, we’ve done our job. That’s our promise to him.

K: And when you heard that, did that appeal to you? Did it appeal to you to support even just a protest candidate who wanted to change the nature of the dialogue that was transpiring in the campaign?

S: Very much so. I think that I feel like many Americans, that we’re tired of the anger and the fighting in Washington. Where, you know, I’m tired of, of the typical candidates, the typical politician and their rhetoric. And Donald Trump was bringing something different to that. He was, he was being a straight shooter. He said, we have a problem. And I appreciated that.

K: So why do you hold it against Donald Trump or his campaign if people and voters started taking his candidacy more seriously and that the campaign discovered he was a much more viable candidate than they had initially assumed, and that they would go all the way?

S: I wouldn’t say I hold it against them. I do give warning to voters. Because they need to stop and look at what he’s really saying. There is no substance to his policy. There is no “there” there with him. He has the same lines in his stump speech about his polling numbers, about how great he is. And I don’t see how that is the leader of the free world.

K: So you were supporting him as a protest candidate. You continued to work for the Super PAC until it was dissolved…

S: Correct.

K: …in October. So, why were you supporting him initially? I mean, you said, because he was a straight shooter. And when did you come to the realization, in your words, that there was no “there” there? What changed your mind?

S: [laughs] I…I had hope that he would come forth – that he wouldn’t just be the straight talker. That he really would come forth with proposals and ideas on how to make America great again, to use his slogan. To come up with ideas and solutions to help bring jobs back to America; to help stop some of the fighting in Washington, D.C.; and to get us back on a good path as a country and be a strong leader. I think by the November debates I was starting to see, he’s not coming out with any solid policy statements, any sort of, you know – every, every debate, every time he goes out there, was this bully pulpit. And you know, it was some sort of, what looked like a, a schoolyard fight. And it just became almost worse than what’s going on in Washington.

K: It was interesting in your open letter, which is incredibly harsh toward Donald Trump, you do say, “After the first debate, I was more anxious than ever to support Trump. The exchange with Megyn Kelly was like manna from heaven for a communications director. She appeared like yet another reporter trying to kick out the guest who wasn’t invited to the party.” As a woman, have you found some of his comments that he has made about women at all offensive?

S: You know, I think that I find his comments in general about people to be offensive now.

K: And yet you found that manna from heaven?

S: I did. At the time, as somebody who needed…content to do what we were going to be doing, I thought, okay; this is okay. He, he’s taking somebody on. Today I have a completely different view of that. I think that if, you know – kind of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me – I look at it now, and his continued words again Megyn Kelly, against other women – they’re not leaderly; they’re not kind to women. And I do have a problem with it now. You know, perhaps I was – honestly, if, if I’m taking full responsibility for myself here, which I will do, you know, maybe I was blinded by my own ambition and saying, we can do something great with this. But I truly believed we could do something great with him.

K: You write: “What was once Trump’s desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman, has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks. I’ll say it again – Trump never intended to be a can, be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now. You can give Trump the biggest gift (?) possible – if you were a Trump supporter, stop supporting him. He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already, and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so. The hard truth is, Trump only cares about Trump.” Some people might say, Stephanie, how can you make these, this assertion, if you never met Donald Trump, you never spoke with Donald Trump? And is this based, basically based on your witnessing the campaign?

S: It’s based on my witnessing my camp – witnessing the campaign. It’s based on how he behaves in public. You know, obviously what I say (?) in the media is my opinion of, of what I take from this. And I truly believe that he – if, if he was out for America, I can’t see him saying the things and behaving in the fashion that he’s behaving. I agree that he has a right to say these things. It’s his First Amendment right. But he could be the stand-up candidate. When there are riots, when there’s bad behavior at his rallies, he could stand up there and be leaderly and say, everybody, stop. You know? Let’s… And he doesn’t do that. And so that’s how I sit there and say, I don’t think he cares about anyone other than himself and the media time he gets.

K: You write that what happened in Brussels and in Pakistan were sort of the final straw for you, and you felt you had to come forward. Tell me why. Can you elaborate?

S: I can. Monday morning of last Monday – last week, when Brussels happened, and I was watching it and I was watching the morning news shows and he was on – and he offered no condolences, no worries, nothing – he just simply said, I warned you this, about this. I, I told you that Belgium was falling apart, that it was an awful place. And we need to shut our borders down immediately. And I thought, I can’t believe this.

K: What would you have liked him to S: I would have liked him to come out immediately and say, this is a tragic situation. I am, you know, mortified that this has happened. Even a “yet again, another attack,” We just saw Paris in November. But he didn’t. He immediately broke into how he had, you know…warned us that this would happen, or that he – it wouldn’t have happened under his watch. And it bothered me that there was no solutions. It was just about K: In a statement to Yahoo News, the Trump campaign responded to your open letter, saying, quote: “This person was never employed by the Trump campaign. Evidently she worked for a Super PAC which Mr. Trump disavowed and requested the closure of via the FEC. She knows nothing about Mr. Trump or the campaign. And her disingenuous and factually inaccurate statements in no way resemble any shred of truth. This is yet another desperate person looking for their fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is running for president because he is the only one who will make America great again.” What’s your

S: It’s probably the same statement I would have put out if I worked for the campaign. [laughs] Ah, I mean, they’re right. I never worked for the campaign. And I didn’t claim to. But it’s not… I mean, it’s – the open letter references meetings I had. I was there. They happened. And what I saw from the Super PAC side, and what my opinion is on the candidate.

K: What has been the reaction, Stephanie, to your open letter to Donald Trump supporters?

S: I have… It’s been overwhelmingly supportive. I mean, I – there’s the haters out there. I’ve gotten a lot of hate email and messages.

K: What kinds of things have they been saying?

S: Oh, that’s I’m a fraud. That, you know, I’m an opportunist.

K: Some have even suggested your being used by the Hilary Clinton campaign or the Ted Cruz campaign as a tool. [laughter] Have you been approached by either of those campaigns…

S: No. No.

K: …or were you approached?

S: I was not approached by either one. And, in fact, in the, the, Lachlan Mackey’s piece last week, he actually asked me, he said, is there another candidate that you’re supporting? And there’s not another candidate in the field that I’m comfortable supporting right now, on either side. So I’ve not been approached by anyone’s campaign. This is all me. I know I’ve had some people say, well, all you’re doing is helping Hilary Clinton. I, I don’t know if I am or not. I mean, I’m not a supporter of hers. But…and she’s a grown woman. She can take care of herself, and I’m sure she will, if she’s up against him in June – or, you know, after June into November. But I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me with support and praise, and commending me for speaking out against him. The thing that I found interesting about that was, I was hesitant to say anything. I was almost afraid of him. I’ve never met him, and I was afraid of him. And I think that’s what a lot of people feel. They’re afraid of what he or his supporters will say or do.

K: Have you heard anything from the, the Trump campaign since you wrote this open letter?

S: Not to my knowledge. I’m a little behind on email right now. [laughs] But, no. And unless they’ve Tweeted something at me – and I can’t keep up with the Tweets right now; it’s unbelievable. I mean, I suppose that that sounds naïve. But it is a little unbelievable to me. I have not heard anything otherwise them (?) 15:00 .

K: It’s pretty difficult to thrust yourself into the public spotlight this way. I just met your daughter. I’m sure you’re concerned about doing this.

S: Right.

K: What basically tipped this, tipped you in favor of writing this open letter?

S: Well…

K: Because I’m sure you must have thought about it a great deal. And it’s quite lengthy.

S: It is. I spent several days writing it and thinking about it. Even thinking about whether or not to publish it. Because I do – I have two wonderful children and a wonderful husband, and I don’t want them to feel the effects adversely of anything that I do. But I did feel strongly, I do feel like I have a voice for people. And I did want to say everything that I said in there. And I wanted – I tried to do it in an eloquent way, but a very honest and straightforward way.

K: So I guess the bottom line is, to understand your thinking, you felt comfortable supporting and helping Donald Trump as a protest candidate who was going to alter the political discourse in this country. But only as that. And once he became a more serious candidate, that’s when you decided you had significant reservations. Because in some ways that makes you hypocritical as well.

S: Right. Right. No, and I wouldn’t say it that way. I mean, I, I was glad when he was polling well. Like every day when the poll numbers were up, there was, oh (?) , I thought, this is gonna be great. And had…he continued down a path of – if he had taken the high road, if he had not had kind of the antics and the words and all the Tweets about the candidates – like, you know, his – I just think that I would have probably stuck with him. But when you look at his Twitter feed, and it’s all about Lyin’ Ted or it’s, you know, nasty things about whomever, that’s a little disheartening tome. I mean, that takes the political mud slinging to a whole new level. So I, I probably – had he taken a, a – like I said, the high road approach, an intelligent, thoughtful, policy-driven approach, I’d still be a supporter. Because I think that the political discourse needs to change, and I think the conversation needs to change.

K: Incidentally, the Trump campaign has issued a statement saying, Mr. Lewandowski, Corey Lewandowski who you met with, you said, on several, several occasions, in a separate matter, this, this question of whether or not he assaulted a reporter from Breitbart – “Mr. Lewandowski was issued a Notice to Appear and given a court date. He was not arrested. Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.” Do you have any opinion on this whole incident?

S: You know, I don’t, because I wasn’t there. I don’t know… I mean, we’ve seen the videos; we’ve seen the tapes. I don’t know exactly what transpired. And even some of those videos are a little difficult to see. I mean, I hope for his sake, and I hope for his family’s sake and for the campaign’s sake that it’s not true, that he’s found innocent.

K: As someone who was involved with the Trump campaign at least peripherally, and then later with the, as we mentioned, the short-lived Super PAC, do you believe that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee?

S: I believe that there’s a good chance. I am also very frightened about what’s going to happen in Cleveland in June. If he doesn’t walk in with the 1237 delegates he needs and it goes to a contested convention, I, I think it’s a little extreme of him to say that there’ll be riots. I do firmly believe that all those people that supported him, if he is not named the nominee, will be even more upset with the political process and will cause an even greater divide in the country.

K: Well, Stephanie Cegielski, again, thank you very much for coming in to talk about…

S: Thank you.

K: …your open letter to Donald Trump supporters. We appreciate it.

S: Thank you.

K: And of course, we always look forward to hearing what you all who have been watching have to say. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at Yahoo News, and at Katie Couric, and use the hashtag #YahooLive (?) , to let us know what you think about the race for the White House and the interview that you’ve just watched. I’m Katie Couric. Thanks for watching.