Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski watches as Trump speaks in Dubuque, Iowa. Photo / AP
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been charged with battery in Florida amid allegations that he forcefully grabbed a reporter at a campaign event.
What was the incident?
Police in Jupiter, Florida, charged Lewandowski, 42, with intentionally grabbing and bruising the arm of Michelle Fields, a reporter at the time for the conservative news
outlet Breitbart, when she tried to question Trump at a campaign event on March 9.
How has Trump reacted?
“Mr Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge,” Trump’s campaign said. “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.” Trump said at the time that he was told nothing had happened at the event, and said the incident was “in my opinion, made up”. Today on Twitter Trump said: “Wow, Corey Lewandowski, my campaign manager and a very decent man, was just charged with assaulting a reporter.
Look at tapes – nothing there!”. He also tweeted: “Victory press conference was over. Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?” He continued: “Why aren’t people looking at this reporters [sic] earliest statement as to what happened, that is before she found out the episode was on tape?” Fields replied on Twitter: “Because my story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying”.
What is the evidence?
Police released a video showing the incident. It shows Fields walking alongside Trump, and Lewandowski grabbing her arm and pulling her backward as she tried to question the Republican candidate. Previous videos of the incident had been obscured by people in the crowd. The New York Times said Fields pressed charges three days later. The investigating officer, Detective Marc Bujnowski, took statements from Fields and a Washington Post reporter, Ben Terris, who said he had witnessed the incident. The detective obtained security video footage, which he said “parallels what Fields had told me,” the New York Times reported.
Isn’t the campaign known for rough moments?
Rallies for Trump, the billionaire businessmen who leads the race for the Republican nomination in the November 8 presidential election, have been marked by rowdiness and occasional physical contact between protesters and supporters or security personnel.
What does this mean for Lewandowski?
Lewandowski was charged with simple battery, defined under Florida law as intentionally touching or striking a person against their will. For a first offence, it is a misdemeanour in the first degree, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a fine of US$1000. Lewandowski’s lawyer, Scott Richardson of West Palm Beach, Florida, declined to comment on whether his client would step down as campaign manager. Lewandowski’s has a court date of May 5.
What is Lewandowski’s view of the incident?
Lewandowski had previously claimed on Twitter that he never touched Fields, calling her “delusional” in a post on March 12. “I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you,” he tweeted.
What happened to Fields?
Fields resigned from Breitbart less than a week after the incident, citing what she said was the online news outlet’s refusal to stand behind her amid the allegations. She said she was trying to ask Trump about judges and affirmative action.
What is Lewandowski’s relationship like with the media?
The New York Times says Lewandowski is known as a “combative and sometimes divisive” figure. It says he has been “known to scream and curse at reporters with regularity”, putting some on a “blacklist” for coverage he considers unfavourable.
Have there been other incidents?
On March 20, a video of a Trump rally in Arizona appeared to show Lewandowski grabbing a protester from behind by his collar and pulling him backward, the New York Times reports. In 1999, Lewandowski was arrested and charged with a misdemeanour when he brought a pistol into a congressional office building. He said at the time that it had been an accident.
How have Trump’s rivals reacted?
Ted Cruz calls Lewandowski charges “the consequence of the culture of the Trump campaign,” ABC News reports. “That has no place in a political campaign, it has no place in our democracy.” John Kasich says he would suspend or fire Lewandowski.