CNN's got a fee-vah and the only prescription is more Corey Lewandowski

Good lord. How on earth did Roger Ailes get outbid on Corey Lewandowki as a network contributor? Hannity will be inconsolable.

Maybe Lewandowski turned down Fox because he’s thinking strategically. Fox is already chock-a-block with Trump fans in the anchor chair — Bolling, Greta, O’Reilly, and of course Hannity. Trump doesn’t need media muscle there. He needs it at CNN, where Jeffrey Lord’s currently leading a ragtag team of more obscure Trumpers like Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes. Lewandowski will immediately become the most prominent Trumper at CNN and the network’s go-to guy for Trump spin. And since he has a direct pipeline to Team Trump, the campaign can rest assured that CNN viewers will be hearing the message that the campaign wants them to hear.

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is joining CNN as a political commentator, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.

It’s a salaried position and will make Lewandowski exclusive to CNN, effective immediately…

Lewandowski himself has had his own run-ins with CNN reporters. In November, Lewandowski warned CNN’s Trump embed Noah Gray to “get back in the pen or he’s f—— blacklisted,” according to a recording of the incident. In another incident, Lewandowski reportedly physically pushed Gray away from Trump.

Corey being rewarded by a network whose reporter he tried to bully is a perfect metaphor for the media’s relationship with Trump. And speaking of rewards: Does this hire explain why Lewandowski was so curiously upbeat about Trump in his interview with CNN on Monday, just a few hours removed from being fired like a dog, as Trump might say? Trump fans argued that that was just Corey being loyal to a man he truly admires. Right, but Lewandowski’s still a human being. No one expected him to go out and savage Trump, but singing his praises unflappably at a moment when it seemed like he should have been emotionally bruised was odd. Maybe … Corey was already kinda sorta trying out for his new CNN gig and wanted to show the network what he’d be like on air as a full-tilt Trump shill? Before you dismiss that idea, read this from Mediaite:

Multiple CNN insiders have told Mediaite that former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had been offered a job at CNN before Lewandowski sat for a lengthy CNN interview this week.

Right after the Trump campaign announced Lewandowski’s firing, Lewandowski not only gave his first interview to CNN, but he sat down for 20+ minutes with Dana Bash, and she really grilled him on the details of his exit and the state of the Trump campaign.

Gosh, that kind of sounds like CNN paid, or essentially promised to pay, an interview subject if he’d agree to give them a big scoop. Tabloids are known to do that. Serious journalistic outfits typically aren’t.

I don’t see any problem in principle with bringing him on as a commentator despite his closeness to the campaign. Paul Begala is a Clinton shill extraordinaire and he’s been a CNN contributor for ages, for cripes sake. David Axelrod, Obama’s former right-hand man, has been a CNN talking head since last year. Ana Navarro and Amanda Carpenter used to work for Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, respectively, and they were on-air regularly this spring defending their former employers. If you have a problem with campaign operatives shilling for candidates, there’s a long list to get through before you arrive at Lewandowski. That said, there are two potential quirks about hiring him that might not be present with others. One: Are we completely sure he’s not still working for Trump in some capacity? He showed up at a donor event a few nights ago that he had been scheduled to attend before he was fired. Despite having just been stripped of his duties by Trump, he gave the pro-Trump pitch anyway. Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokesman, and several other Trump staffers joined him. Why would he do that? There’s loyalty and then there’s helping out the guy who just canned you and canceled your paycheck out of the goodness of your heart. Makes me wonder if Trump “formally” fired Lewandowski to signal to the RNC and party donors that he was resetting his campaign while reassuring Lewandowski that he’ll still be part of the team informally as a mouthpiece on CNN. If that’s true, Lewandowski would have a conflict of interest as a “neutral” commentator unless he disclosed that he’s still on the Trump train.

But there’s probably no way to prove that. The second quirk is more interesting: Doesn’t Lewandowski have a nondisparagement clause in his contract with Trump? The AP wrote about Trump’s habit of getting employees to agree to heavy-handed NDAs a few days ago.

In his businesses and presidential campaign, Trump requires nearly everyone to sign legally binding nondisclosure agreements prohibiting them from releasing any confidential or disparaging information about the real estate mogul, his family or his companies. Those subject to confidentiality agreements include senior advisers like Lewandowski, campaign volunteers and even a maker of his famous “Make America Great Again” hats…

Employees are restricted from publicly disclosing information “of a private, proprietary or confidential nature or that Mr. Trump insists remain private or confidential,” according to the document. It also requires them to return or destroy copies of any confidential information upon Trump’s request. The agreement is binding during employment and “and at all times thereafter.”

It’s not just Trump who is protected by his campaign’s confidentiality agreement. Making disparaging comments about “any member of Mr. Trump’s family, including but not limited to, Mr. Trump’s spouse, each of Mr. Trump’s children and grandchildren and their respective spouses” is grounds for legal action. All of Trump’s children are listed by name in the document, including his 10-year-old son, Barron.

Begala and Axelrod may be shills for their candidates but they’re not, I assume, bound by any nondisparagement clauses. The reason is obvious: You can’t freely and fairly criticize someone if you risk a catastrophic lawsuit by doing so. Granted, partisan talking heads aren’t much inclined to attack their own sides in the first place, but the implicit promise to viewers is that they’re giving their honest, if partisan, opinions on the news of the day. If Trump screws something up badly, would Lewandowski be able to give his honest opinion that it’s a screw-up or is he bound by contract to defend Trump in all matters? That would be a problem even by the low ethical standards of cable news.

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