A few thoughts to follow Jazz’s post. For starters, I’m sure Lewandowski will deny that he was fired but the NYT cites two sources claiming he was “let go.” Which makes sense. Why would he voluntarily leave Team Trump? It’s his meal ticket, Trump’s recent slide in the polls notwithstanding. His winning strategy in the primaries, “Let Trump be Trump,” isn’t transferable to any other candidate in America so it’s not as if he’s headed off to greener, more lucrative political pastures. He had every reason to stay put, even with Paul Manafort jockeying with him for preeminence, hope that Trump would pull a rabbit out of the hat in November, and then land an important White House job. As it is, given the whispers about him, what gig is Lewandowski going to land that’s sweeter than this one? As one Trump staffer put it:
Trump camp source downplays Corey's success: he "ran the tour. The tour manager for the Stones doesn't get inducted into the hall of fame."
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) June 20, 2016
That’s always been the rap on Lewandowski, that he’s little more than a glorified “body man” who keeps Trump on schedule but otherwise leaves the strategy, such as it is, to Trump himself. Hard to believe there’s a huge demand for that type of operative, especially given Lewandowski’s reputation for combativeness.
I’m curious about the timing, though, both at the micro and macro level. Micro: Why would Trump wait to fire Lewandowski on Monday morning, when reporters are back at their desks and hunting for something juicy to cover, instead of doing it Friday night as a pre-weekend news dump? There’s reason to believe that the firing did take place this weekend. Per the AP, as of 11:45 ET on Saturday morning, Lewandowski was scheduled to appear on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday. He did not appear. If Team Trump pulled him back because his termination was imminent, why not rush that out on Sunday after the morning shows were over and let it percolate while most of the country is ignoring the news? Either it’s pure messaging incompetence at work, which wouldn’t be surprising giving how thinly staffed Trump’s campaign is, or Trump wanted the news out there bright and early this morning at the start of the business week. These reports suggest incompetence:
I just talked to a high ranking Trump source who had "no idea what was going on"
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) June 20, 2016
Asked if staff was notified of Corey decision, campaign source tells me it's "bedlam in the Trump campaign. No one knows what is happening."
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) June 20, 2016
The macro argument, though, suggests design: Namely, Trump may have saved the news for this morning because he’s sending a signal to the Republican leadership that he intends to embrace Paul Manafort’s more scripted, disciplined approach to campaigning going forward. Manafort, rememeber, was the guy Trump initially brought in to wrangle delegates when it looked like Cruz might beat him on the second ballot in Cleveland. Manafort quickly moved to supplant Lewandowski, though, as de facto campaign manager; he wanted Trump to tone things down for the general election and promised a roomful of Republican operatives that that transition would happen soon. Lewandowski wanted to let Trump be Trump. They’ve been struggling for control ever since, per news reports. Trump has done a few scripted events over the last month, most notably his post-Orlando speech, but by and large he’s been the same ol’ Trump on the trail, especially in his weird preoccupation with attacking the Trump U judge. Maybe he took a hard look at his brutal numbers in June, read the stories about anti-Trump delegates trying to organize a coup at the convention, and concluded that he needed to do something splashy to reassure Republican leaders that he was going to run, or try to run, a more polished Manafort-style campaign. The obvious move: Can Lewandowski and do it on a Monday morning to make sure it resonates. In fact, the firing happened today just hours after this Bloomberg scoop appeared about Trump and his advisors meeting to “reassess strategy”:
Members of Trump’s team also told Bloomberg Politics there still appears to be a schism between campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The campaign has built two distinct communications operations: one at its New York headquarters, and another in Cleveland for the convention. There have been instances of friction between each team…
Some members of the Trump campaign say that a reshuffling of the campaign—a merger of the Lewandoski and Manafort teams that reassigned roles—will be coming soon.
Still, one adviser described the campaign as overwhelmed. Another said the campaign has been unable to focus Trump on more specific events, such as visiting shuttered factories or failing schools.
It was two campaigns within one, one led by Lewandowski and the other by Manafort, and each allegedly had knives out for the other. That lack of coordination couldn’t continue. Maybe, per the idea of a “merger” between the two sides, Trump offered to keep Lewandowski on but told him he’d be taking orders from Manafort from now on and Lewandowski couldn’t tolerate that. Or maybe Trump fired him straightaway. Either way, Trump’s signaling that Manafort’s in charge now. Does that a mean a lower-key, more, ahem, “presidential” Trump going forward? I’m going to guess no but maybe he’ll try for a few weeks. One other note: Patrick Ruffini thinks it’s no coincidence that Lewandowski was canned on the day that the May fundraising numbers are due at the FEC. It could be that Trump, in the course of gladhanding rich Republicans over the last few weeks and asking for donations, heard one too many complaints that his campaign seems unprofessional and that a shake-up would be needed before they reached for their wallets. Lewandowski might be the sacrificial lamb. If so, savor the irony that the guy who crowed about letting Trump be Trump and who boasted that his billionaire boss would never be beholden to the GOP business class might have been axed to appease … the Republican business class.
In lieu of an exit question, I’ll leave you with a fun quote from February. Oh, as for the prospect of a tell-all book from Lewandowski down the line, I wouldn’t worry about that. Trump is notorious for getting employees to sign nondisclosure agreements. I bet Corey’s mouth is sewed shut.
Update: Make of this what you will.
Trump had "direct conversation" w/Lewandowski this am, "completely severed" ties after became clear he was "a problem," sources tell @KellyO
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 20, 2016
Good question from my pal Karl: When did it suddenly dawn on Trump that Lewandowski might be a problem?
Update: Lewandowski is a delegate to the GOP convention from New Hampshire. Who’s he voting for?
Update: It’s well known that Trump relies heavily on his kids for advice, Ivanka especially, so this seems plausible. Manafort has wanted Lewandowski out for weeks but Trump will tolerate his unhappiness. Upset Ivanka, though, and hoo boy:
I'm told the person who convinced Trump to fire Corey is Ivanka – who met with her dad and said get rid of him or she can no longer help
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) June 20, 2016
Update: Wow. Here’s a twist:
Was Ivanka the final say? …
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) June 20, 2016
Trump fans almost uniformly insist that Lewandowski grabbing Fields on the arm after an event in Florida was a complete nothingburger inflated by the media to score a point on Trump. Did Ivanka disagree?
Update: According to an update at the Times, Lewandowski was on this morning’s campaign conference call at 8:30. So much for my theory that he was fired over the weekend and that’s why he missed “Fox News Sunday.” Why did he miss it, though? Did the campaign pull him back knowing that something was imminent?
Update: Ah. If true, this would explain Ivanka’s antipathy to Lewandowski.
Hearing that Lewandowski had trying to plant negative stories about Jared Kushner in recent weeks in attempt to sideline Trump's son-in-law
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) June 20, 2016
Jared Kushner is Ivanka’s husband. Hard to believe Lewandowski would be so stupid as to go after him, but you never know with Team Trump.