As Donald Trump basked in the glow of primary victories in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois on Wednesday, he gave a shout-out to embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, positioned at his right hand.
“Good job, Corey,” Trump said at a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort – where he also, once again, ridiculed the “disgusting” press. Then, on Thursday, the New York Times reported that Lewandowski will have the honour of serving as one of Trump’s convention delegates in Cleveland in July. The message is clear: Lewandowski is Trump’s guy.
The Republican presidential front-runner’s unwavering support is remarkable, considering a) the relative obscurity Lewandowski inhabited before his current job
and b) last week he allegedly left bruises on the arm of a female reporter he roughly grabbed after a press conference.
But read Lewandowski’s old press clips and it’s clear he and Trump appear to be kindred spirits, sharing a love of race-baiting, petty attacks, fine architecture and lapses into a fictional universe. A match like Lewandowski is hard to find; Trump isn’t about to dump him over an incident he’s decided to pretend never happened.
1 Suspicion of Islam
While managing former New Hampshire senator Robert Smith’s (failed) re-election campaign in December 2001, a few months after 9/11, Lewandowski suggested his candidate’s Palestinian-American primary opponent might not share Smith’s strong opposition to terrorism.
Smith’s rival, John Sununu, had a fundraiser named George Salem, a lawyer who had represented a Muslim charity called the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Earlier, the Treasury Department had frozen the foundation’s assets, alleging ties to Hamas. (Five leaders of the charity were convicted of supporting terrorism in 2008.)
Based on that loose connection, Lewandowski told AP “the people of New Hampshire want someone in the US
Senate with clear, concise views on terrorism. That goes for the people who contribute to your campaign, the people you associate with and your voting record”.
Sharp rebukes rained down from within the official Republican Party (sound familiar?). Former senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire told the New York Times that Lewandowski’s comment was “so bad it reeks”. The state’s former governor, Steve Merrill, said “the politics
of ethnic slurs and bigotry have no place in any campaign.”
And Jennifer Millerwise, a spokeswoman for then-President George W. Bush, told the Washington Post: “Remarks that paint Arab Americans with a broad brush aren’t helpful. We need to reassure Arab Americans that this war is about al-Qaeda, not Islam. Mr Salem is a good friend of the President’s and an honourable man.”
It was as if Lewandowski were already auditioning to be Trump’s campaign manager.
2 What do you mean we lost?
Even earlier, in 1996, Lewandowski displayed the kind of wilful disregard of basic facts that is a hallmark of the Trump campaign. A few weeks after election day that year, AP reporter Carolyn Skorneck visited the offices of ousted members of Congress to chronicle the “melancholy chore” of moving out. Her report included this scene in the office where Lewandowski worked: “The mood was defiantly upbeat, with no packing under way, in the office of Representative Peter Torkildsen, Massachusetts, where aide Corey Lewandowski said of those on the move: ‘Fortunately, that’s not us.'”
Torkildsen had lost the election to Democratic challenger John Tierney by 360 votes in the initial tally. The final margin was 371 in a recount a couple of weeks later. Lewandowski and the other staff were among those moving out – a fate which, if not certain on the day of the interview, should have seemed likely enough to inspire a bit of humble restraint.
3 Expensive taste
As a developer of resorts, casinos and golf courses, Lewandowski’s current boss certainly has an eye for high-end design. Lewandowski does, too, as Jody Feinberg of the Quincy, Massachusetts, Patriot Ledger discovered in 2006 when she wrote a feature about the Gourmet Detective mystery dinner theatre. Among the dinner guests was Lewandowski, who was liked the setting – the posh College Club of Boston. “I like the ambience,” said Lewandoski, referring to the high ceilings, detailed trim, mahogany woodwork and antiques.
4 This inflatable ATM is going to be yuge
If you’re going to work for candidate who’s all about building a “big, beautiful wall” along the Southern border, you must appreciate big, beautiful things.
In 2008, as the newly named New Hampshire director of Americans for Prosperity, Lewandowski delivered to voters a big, beautiful ATM.
A press release said: “The news
conference will feature citizen activists and a huge, [4.8m high] inflatable ATM machine to drive the point home that citizens are ‘Already Taxed to the Max’, and lawmakers cannot treat taxpayers as their ATM.”
5 Lawyer plays fantasy football with work email. Sad!
And if you’re going to work for a candidate who attacks his opponents on such substantive issues as looks, height and stamina, it helps to have some practice going after important things like a deputy county attorney’s participation in a fantasy football league using (gasp!) his work email address. In 2012, Lewandowski, found the “dirt” on Hillsborough County prosecutor Ross McLeod. “It was a blatant abuse of taxpayer resources,” Lewandowski told WMUR-TV. The state’s attorney-general disagreed and declined to charge McLeod.