NEW YORK – Contrary to a Washington Post report, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is not leading Trump’s search for a running mate, according to campaign insiders.
The Post cited two unnamed Republicans on Tuesday who claimed Lewandowski is in charge of the vetting team, but Trump insider Roger Stone told the Chicago Tribune that Lewandowski is “overselling” his role in the VP search.
“He’s crowing about the responsibility of a clerk,” Stone told the paper. “This kind of self-aggrandizement doesn’t serve the candidate well.”
Lewandowski declined to comment to the Tribune.
Trump is the only one in charge, Stone insisted, noting the candidate will “interview everyone who’s a serious contender.”
“That’s why the choice will be outside the box. I think it’ll be daring.”
Trump himself, in an Associated Press interview Wednesday, downplayed the assertion that Lewandowski was playing the lead role in the search, saying it’s being carried out by “a group” that includes him and former GOP presidential rival Ben Carson.
“Honestly, we’re all running it,” he said. “It’s very much a group effort.”
WND received no response to an email inquiry to Lewandowski and Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, asking for clarification of Lewandowski’s role in the VP search and in talks with the Republican National Committee regarding the convention.
Lewandowski ‘humbled to be on the team’
On Monday, Robert Costa reported in the Washington Post that Lewandowski will “oversee” the vice-presidential search.
“Lewandowski, Trump’s traveling confident and campaign manager, will be in charge of the team that will survey and vet potential vice-presidential candidates for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, two top Republicans said,” Costa wrote, siting two anonymous sources supposedly familiar with Lewandowski’s responsibilities.
“Lewandowski formally took charge of the hunt for a running mate last week and has been described inside and outside the campaign as the point person for all related questions and meetings, the Republicans said,” Costa continued.
On Tuesday, Ben Kamisar in the Hill echoed the Post’s reporting, saying Lewandowski “will helm” Trump’s search for a running mate.
In a Tuesday evening appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News television show, Hannity introduced Lewandowski as Trump’s pick to lead the search for vice president.
But in the interview, Lewandowki appeared to back off from Hannity’s description, insisting only that he was “humbled to be on the team” conducting the search for Trump.
Lewandowski heading Trump’s RNC talks?
On April 22, Bloomberg reported a “secret meeting” took place between Trump adviser Paul Manafort and RNC head Reince Priebus at the RNC spring meeting in Florida. Bloomberg suggested that Trump planned to work with the RNC, despite campaign rhetoric charging the GOP primary and convention rules were “rigged” against Trump.
There was no mention in the Bloomberg report that Lewandowski attended the RNC meeting between Manafort and Priebus.
On Sunday, Politico reported “senior Trump aides,” including Lewandowski, Manafort and political director Rick Wiley were meeting with top RNC officials to work out details of a final fundraising agreement.
While the Politico article listed Lewandowski first, there was no suggestion in the report that Lewandowski was leading the discussions.
The Politico article published Sunday further reported the conversations “are also partly an effort to lay the groundwork for a Thursday meeting in Washington including Trump, Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced last Thursday that he is withholding his endorsement until Trump outlines a stronger commitment to conservative principles.”
On Monday, CBS reported that Lewandowski attended the RNC meeting along with Manafort and Wiley, adding that newly appointed deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner also attended.
Glassner’s political credits include senior adviser to Sen. Bob Dole from January 1986 though January 2001, working on George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign and acting as top adviser to vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin in 2008.
Lewandowski vs. Manafort: Who’s in charge?
Last week, WND reported Trump insiders accused Lewandowski of micromanaging the appointment of Steven Mnuchin, a Wall Street veteran who worked for 17 years with Goldman Sachs, as campaign finance chairman. The insiders said the process was designed to keep Mnuchin’s candidacy from Manafort, who was actively pursuing other candidates, believing he had been appointed by Trump to nominate the campaign’s finance chairman.
Manafort is a GOP presidential campaign veteran who began managing Ronald Reagan’s convention delegate operation in 1976.
The opponents of Lewandowski within Trump’s campaign charge the campaign manager is isolating Trump, much as John Erlichman and H. R. Haldeman isolated President Richard Nixon to his detriment during the Watergate scandal.
The internal struggle appears to have begun almost from the first moments Manafort was hired by Trump to manage his delegate operation. The hire came in April after it became apparent that Trump might not gain the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention.
CNN reported April 7 that the loss of the Wisconsin primary and the delegate gains made by Sen. Ted Cruz led to a campaign shake-up in which Manafort would be playing an expanded role beyond managing Trump’s delegate operation, with Lewandowski playing “a shrinking role” as campaign manager.
CBS correspondent Major Garrett reported that after Manafort was hired, Lewandowski was “reduced to a role that amounts to body man and scheduler.”
Politico reported in April that Trump, bristling at efforts by Manafort to make him appear more “presidential,” was taking steps “to return some authority to Manafort’s chief internal rival,” Lewandowski.
Lewandowski was at the center of controversy in March when then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields pressed misdemeanor battery charges alleging he grabbed her arm during a Trump press conference in Jupiter, Florida, on March 8. Last month, Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg decided not to prosecute Lewandowski, explaining he didn’t have enough to bring the case.
His political credits include working as an administrative assistant to Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, before the congressman was convicted of corruption charges in the Jack Abramoff scandal and working as campaign manager and communications director for Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., in his unsuccessful 2002 re-election bid.