Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, remains a big draw

  • Corey Lewandowski answers questions at the Veterans Home in Tilton last week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Corey Lewandowski listens to a bird watching lecture at the Veterans Home in Tilton last week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/9/2017 12:25:57 AM

Some people were born to make headlines.

Donald Trump, for one. Corey Lewandowski, for another.

And since I couldn’t secure an interview with the president of the United States, I pursued his former right-hand man, who happens to live in New Hampshire, and who happened to be at the state’s Veterans Home in Tilton a few days ago.

Lewandowski has been making news since Trump hired him as his campaign manager 2½ years ago, since he was fired 4½ months before Trump won the White House, and lots of time before and in between.

In fact, just a few days before Lewandowski’s appearance here, he’d made news by quitting his lobbying and political consulting firm under bizarre circumstances, saying stuff was going on without his knowledge.

With that backdrop, the media was called to cover a local author, Robert Vallieres, and his presentation on the calming effects of bird-watching on veterans who, like Vallieres himself, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Program Information Officer Leonard Stuart, a former newspaper man, knew what he was doing when he spread the word about Vallieres. He wanted some exposure for a worthy program, and he knew how to get it.

Mention Lewandowski, who fit perfectly into the circus-like atmosphere created by Trump during his bid to beat a crowded GOP field and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

That brought me, WMUR and NHPR to Tilton, where we found Lewandowski wearing a dark blue trench coat. He carried a portfolio showing “TRUMP” spelled out in gold letters above “PENCE” in smaller gold letters. His wife, Alison, came with him.

So did a family history that included an active-duty Marine (his brother), a Vietnam veteran (his father) and a World War II vet (his grandfather). That’s what brought Lewandowski to the home, he told us.

“We need to make sure our veterans have all the resources necessary,” Lewandowski said, “and if I can do one little part to make sure they have all the money and resources necessary to be successful, then I’ll do that.”

After he praised Trump’s health care victory in the House and gave some kind words for those who have served, I asked Lewandowski about Avenue Strategies, the consulting company he co-founded before quitting last week.

Lewandowski had been criticized for using his ties to Trump to promote a pipeline to the White House, which, of course, would have been good for business.

Last week, Public Citizen, a government ethics group, sought an investigation after a report by Politico wondered about a conflict of interest.

“He developed very close ties to President Trump and leading officials in the Trump administration,” the group’s letter said. “His consulting firms are using that access as a selling point for soliciting and generating international and domestic business.”

The next day, news broke that Lewandowski was leaving after learning that his partner, Barry Bennett, and others had used Lewandowski’s name to secure foreign clients with whom he didn’t want to do business. Lewandowski denied involvement in creating the affiliate, called Washington East West Political Strategies.

“I never spoke to those people, I never emailed them, I never met them,” he told me. “And when I found out about that, I said I can’t be part of this. They were putting out information that I was making promises to meet with individuals, and that never took place.”

I wondered why Lewandowski declined to stay and fight for what he believed was right.

“I did fight for what was right,” he told me. “What is right is that when you’re in a situation and people are saying things about you that aren’t accurate, you can either stay there and have your reputation sullied, or you can walk away and do something different. The easier thing would have been to stay. I’m not going to do it.”

The episode was the latest in a string of headlines that had followed the Windham father of four. He was caught on tape grabbing a reporter who had tried to ask Trump a question after a Florida press conference last year. Lewandowski was later charged with a count of simple battery, a charge that was later dropped.

Elsewhere, news reports claimed Lewandowski had had disputes with Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as with Paul Manafort, who replaced Lewandowski after he was fired as campaign manager last year.

Later, the media investigated why Lewandowski remained on the Trump payroll for thousands of dollars while working as a commentator for CNN.

Dig a little deeper, and you learn that Lewandowski was hired by Trump on the spot during a high-rise meeting at Trump Tower, despite having never worked on a presidential campaign in his life.

Dig deeper still, and you learn that in 2010 Lewandowski debated a cardboard cutout of former governor John Lynch on the State House steps, attacking Lynch’s budget proposal.

“When you ask questions, a cardboard cutout will not give a very good response,” Greg Moore, state director of the Americans for Prosperity, told me for my column on Lewandowski two years ago. “A debate like that tends to be a one-sided affair. Corey is not afraid to push the envelope. He understands how to put on a good show.”

And when you put on a show like this, you’re a headline, a juicy piece of news. Lewandowski is a lightning rod for newspapers and TV news, able to attract the media to an event that otherwise would have attracted no attention.

He knew why I came.

“You’re here because I’m a ratings driver, that’s why,” he told me. “Anything that has to do about President Trump, people want to know about. They want to know what he had for breakfast today, why he tweeted something, and I am one of the few people who early on had the privilege of being part of something that changed the history of the world.”

He’s right. And there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to get near a history-changer. It gave me a chance to question a Trump insider, and it gave me a chance to question the insider’s wife, Alison Lewandowski.

She’s been home raising the couple’s four children – 10-year-old Abigail, who wants to be the first female president in history, 8-year-old twins Alex and Owen, and 6-year-old Reagan – while her husband has been out on the road the past two years, shadowing the most important and controversial figure on the planet.

“Of course it’s disappointing when you see something reported that you know is not true, especially if it is against your husband’s character,” Alison told me. “But really, I have small children and that is my focus when I’m home and in New Hampshire, and that is really my role, to protect them and get us through the day.

“We really don’t dwell on any of the negativity of things that come out in the media.”

There will be more written and said about Lewandowski. He’s only 43, fresh off an up-close view of a campaign like none other, ever. He’s not sure what’s next, telling me, “Anything I’ve ever done, another door has always opened after I’ve left.”

In Tilton, his job was to experience a program that, through bird-watching, caters to emotionally struggling vets. Lewandowski took a tour of the Veterans Home and was shown the on-grounds barber shop.

He cited a recent newspaper story about a hair salon owner who was fined for displaying a strip of bricks painted red, white and blue. She was told they too closely resembled a barber’s pole, and that amounted to false advertising.

“I read that story,” Lewandowski told the media and star-struck staffers who followed his every step. “You can’t have a barber’s pole outside anymore in New Hampshire? I hope we don’t get into trouble.”

Somehow, he’d be the one.

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