Behind the Scenes, Lewandowski Reasserting His Influence in Trump Campaign

Sep 15, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, in Iowa last year.
Credit CHARLIE NEIBERGALL / AP

Donald Trump is back in New Hampshire Thursday.

The Republican presidential nominee is set to hold a campaign rally at Laconia Middle School at 7:30 p.m.

This comes as a report by Politico this week finds that Trump’s former campaign manager – New Hampshire resident Corey Lewandowski – has become increasingly more involved with the campaign behind the scenes.

Ben Schreckinger is a reporter for Politico who co-wrote that article. He joined NHPR’s Morning Edition to talk about his reporting.

Trump fired Lewandowski back in June, but what did you learn about the type of involvement he’s having now?

Even after his firing, he kept in close touch with the candidate. The two formed a close, personal bond, and it was really the candidate’s children who forced Lewandowski’s ouster. But recently, especially with the departure of Paul Manafort in late August, he’s been re-engaging with the campaign more broadly. He met with Matt Biundo, who’s helping run the New Hampshire operation, and offered to be a liaison between New Hampshire and New York. He’s now reportedly listening in on morning conference calls held by communication and political staff in New York, and is generally serving as a resource, especially for the New Hampshire operation, where he has the most institutional knowledge.

You’ve heard from New Hampshire campaign staffers for Trump who say they’re consulting with him on a regular basis?

That’s right.

So, it’s not a formal role, but he’s having influence outside the bounds of the campaign?

Yes, and that influence in recent weeks has been growing.

And it sounds like it, as you said, it was recent changes at the top of the campaign, most notably the resignation of campaign chair Paul Manafort, that opened the door for Lewandowski’s return.

And Lewandowski was really credited with letting Trump be Trump early on in the campaign, right?

That’s right. It’s somewhat ironic, given that Paul Manafort was brought in to instill some discipline in Trump. Trump really chaffed at Manafort’s attempts to keep him on prompter, keep him on message. But with the departure of Manafort and bringing on Kellyanne Conway, people like David Bosse, who’s a friend of Corey’s, and Corey getting more involved with the campaign, this has actually coincided with the most on message, the most disciplined few weeks of the campaign for Trump.

And to be clear, Lewandowski declined to comment and the Trump campaign insists he has no decision-making authority.

That’s right, and his role broadly by people who have been interacting with him, people who have been observing his relationship with the campaign is that it’s informal, it’s advisory. It’s quiet and behind the scenes.

And this comes as Lewandowski continues to work as a paid political analyst for CNN, where he appears almost daily, vigorously defending the campaign.

What kind of ethical concerns are being raised about that?

Really from the start of his gig with CNN, it was pointed out that he probably had a strict non-disclosure because most people working for Trump have signed a strict non-disclosure, non-disparagement agreement. That makes it hard for someone to comment objectively. The fact that he’s still receiving severance pay from the campaign critics say hampers his ability to be a truly objective CNN commentator. And of course, any additional involvement with the campaign only compounds those concerns.