Fired Manager Corey Lewandowski Still Involved in Trump Campaign
(ABC News) – As Donald Trump arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a rally a week ago, he stepped out of his motorcade and was greeted by a familiar face: Corey Lewandowski.
Lewandowski had been fired in late-June after serving as Trump’s first campaign manager. Given the internal fighting, Trump’s losing ground in the polls, and the candidate’s and his family’s alleged lack of confidence in Lewandowski, the campaign cut him loose June 20.
Lewandowski was escorted that day from Trump Tower in New York by the very security detail that had helped him check for hidden listening devices in the campaign office weeks earlier.
Now, a few weeks and a lucrative cable network contract later, Lewandowski is back in the fold, according to multiple campaign sources. They describe Lewandowski’s relationship with the candidate as “stronger than ever.”
Each day, Trump wakes up, usually in his Fifth Avenue penthouse, and has a routine round of calls, sources say, that includes his campaign leadership (which has changed in recent weeks), his children, some close allies and someone else quite frequently: Lewandowski.
“They talk almost every day,” one senior level campaign staffer said, requesting anonymity.
The billionaire’s children fired Lewandowski, an effort chiefly led by Donald Trump Jr., along with his sister Ivanka and her husband, real estate mogul Jared Kushner, according to sources.
The former campaign chief has not been in Trump Tower since the day security walked him out. His Secret Service pin, gone.
But his clearance is apparently restored for any Trump rally he attends. “It’s a direct order: If Corey is at a rally, you give him an ’S’ pin,” one staffer said, referring to the pins distributed by the Secret Service recognizing a person who is cleared to enter restricted areas.
Lewandowski, 42, declined to comment for this article because of his contractual obligations to his new employer, CNN. In an email, the network said he has an exclusive contract with CNN and would not be available to comment. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
At the Radisson Hotel in the heart of Manchester last week, Luciano Pavarotti was blasting and the lighting was tweaked to make the right mix of red and blue to create a purple hue. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, a colleague of Lewandowski’s, was waiting for an interview with the Republican nominee on Thursday.
It all appeared normal. Lewandowski escorted the candidate to meet with a group of VIPs, and the candidate then met with his leadership team in the Granite state. And as the nominee of the Republican Party spoke, Lewandowski was right there just off the stage.
Seven months ago, it would have been a typical day in the Trump campaign. But Lewandowski was running the show last Thursday in New Hampshire. With an “S” pin affixed to his green shirt as he barked at staff with commands, he was back to, as one staffer put it, his “glory days.”
New Hampshire holds a special place in the Republican nominee’s heart because it was his first win during the primary election process.
“Corey and Mr. Trump are very good friends,” a campaign adviser with the state operation said.
Lewandowski, who lives in the state, was on the ground for the entire week leading up to the New Hampshire primary back in February. Now in the race to the finish line, sources say, the former campaign manager is spotted at rallies and relied upon by aides on the ground because “one phone call to Corey and it’s done.”
“He’s not directly involved but he’s tight with this man [Trump]. They went through hell together to get to this spot,” the adviser said, referring to Lewandowski’s relationship with the nominee.
“Now that he’s out of the campaign, when Mr. Trump gets elected we will see Corey Lewandowski in some way shape or form once again.”
On the floor of the Republican convention earlier this summer, Lewandowski nominated his former boss on behalf of the New Hampshire delegation. “I represent the people of the great state of New Hampshire,” Lewandowski said during his brief floor remarks.
“And a state that was the first to recognize Donald J. Trump, and deliver the first victory on his behalf on a path to 38 victories that he achieved.”
In closing remarks, Lewandowski read through all the votes for other candidates, ending with Trump: “And 11 votes for my friend, and the next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.”
One senior level campaign official said: “He’s more involved that anyone realizes.”
Another senior level aide said, “The days that Corey’s influence were widely seen were the days that Trump wanted to go back to the old days. How he ran it in the primaries,” the person said, adding that Lewandowski “keeps telling him [Trump] to do what he wants and for that they’ll go down together.”
Former Trump political adviser Roger Stone has his own view of Lewandowski. “He¹s a great advance man,” he told ABC News. “On strategy, not so much.”
Stone also still speaks with Trump and has made his distaste for Lewandowski known. “He came close to losing the nomination for Trump,” he said.
As Trump was growing frustrated with the direction of his campaign, the New York Times reported on Aug. 15 that his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had allegedly pocketed $12.7 million in cash for business dealings he had with the Ukrainian government. Manafort has denied it. He also declined to be interviewed for this article.
The Times tweeted its story in the normal course of getting the news to readers. What was odd is who retweeted the damaging story to Manafort: Corey Lewandowski.
Days later, when Manafort resigned from the campaign, Lewandowski retweeted a post from someone who had written, “Lewandowski is winning so much even he may get tired of winning.”
Lewandowski said later that morning during an interview with his employer, CNN: “I didn’t win but I thought it was funny because, you know, what it is people think I won. I had nothing to do with this.”
“This was about Donald Trump. He’s running for president. This is about what is best for Donald Trump, what is best for the American people, and what is best to lay out his case that Hillary Clinton is not prepared to be the president of the United States.”
For his part, Lewandowski earned $20,000 from the Trump campaign in early-July via Lewandowski’s consulting firm Green Monster Consulting LLC, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
The Trump campaign has described the monthly payments as severance to close out its contract with Lewandowski. Yet in his role now as an on-air analyst for CNN, he has said he is a Trump supporter, but impartial.
Appearing last week on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper was asked that very question. “So he works for you guys,” Colbert said, meaning CNN. “Does he still get any money from the Trump people at the same time? “
Cooper said, “I believe – I read he gets a continuing severance payment from the Trump campaign,” Cooper responded.
“So y’all are paying him and Trump is paying him, but he’s on your show doing analysis for a man he still gets cash from?” Colbert followed up.
“Pretty much,” Cooper said. “Yeah, I guess that’s one way to look at it.”
Back at Trump’s Manchester event a week ago, as he departed, Trump was escorted all the way to his armed vehicle by Lewandowski. Trump told Lewandowski to hop in for the ride to the airport, according to several sources. Lewandowski declined, waving goodbye.
They’d talk again, apparently soon enough.
ABC News’ Candace Smith contributed to this report.