Grabbing a reporter or refusing to pay child support can be overlooked in Trumpworld, but this was an unpardonable sin.
Like bad breath, Corey Lewandowski keeps coming back, but he might have finally worn out his welcome in Trumpworld for good.
According to allegations reported in Politico, the wife of a Republican donor claimed that Lewandowski “repeatedly touched her, including on her leg and buttocks, and spoke to her in sexually graphic terms” and “stalked” her throughout the evening. Oh yeah, he also “allegedly remarked on the size of his genitalia, described his sexual performance and showed Odom his hotel room key.”
The alleged incident cost Lewandowski his role running a Trump SuperPAC (he has been replaced by former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi), as well as his role advising South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. (She also dropped him days after a hit piece in the pro-Trump website American Greatness, citing unnamed “sources,” claimed the two were having an affair, which she’s denied.)
What is noteworthy, though, is not that someone closely affiliated with Trump would engage in questionable alleged behavior (see Jason Miller, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Matt Gaetz, et al.), but that there would actually be consequences for his behavior. Like so many in Trump’s orbit, Lewandowski has established a pattern of inappropriate and abusive behavior that has generally resulted in slaps on the wrist, followed by his failing forward.
It has been a pattern for most of his life. Indeed, Lewandowski’s political career reads more like a rap sheet than a standard political resume.
In the late ‘90s, he worked for Rep. Bob Ney, who went to jail after becoming embroiled in the Jack Abramoff affair. During that time, Lewandowski was arrested for bringing a loaded handgun (with his laundry) into the Longworth House Office Building. But his dirty laundry, as you will see, involved more than just a loaded gun.
Next, he went to work as campaign manager for Sen. Bob Smith’s 2002 re-election bid in New Hampshire. In the interest of full disclosure, during this time, he briefly became my wife’s boss (she was already working as a fundraising consultant for Smith, and left soon after Lewandowski was hired). Lewandowski, she tells me, insisted on being called “the hammer,” despite the fact that this was already a common nickname for Tom DeLay. He didn’t make any advances, though she recalls once being inside his apartment, where the decor consisted of “two lawn chairs, and stacks of porn magazines.” She left (the apartment and then the campaign) soon after that.
After Smith lost his primary, Lewandowski attended the New Hampshire police academy, before landing at the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP). During his tenure there, as Politico reported, “Lewandowski loudly berated [an] employee for challenging his authority, getting in her personal space and calling her a ‘c—’ in front of a group of AFP employees, including some senior officials, according to three sources who either witnessed the exchange or dealt with its aftermath.”
Lewandowski’s big break finally came when he landed the job as Trump’s campaign manager in 2015. During his tenure as manager, Lewandowski allegedly dated Hope Hicks and was famously charged with battery after he grabbed my friend and former colleague, reporter Michelle Fields, while she tried to ask Trump a question (Trump, of course, defended him, suggesting Fields “made up” the whole thing).
Eventually, though, Lewandowski was pushed out as Trump’s campaign manager, replaced by Paul Manafort, and even, reportedly, escorted out of Trump Tower by security. Still, he immediately landed on his feet, as a CNN contributor (he later resigned after reports surfaced that he signed a non-disclosure agreement that likely impeded his ability to provide any commentary that was critical of Trump), and as a Trump-connected lobbyist.
In 2017, pro-Trump singer Joy Villa filed a police report saying Lewandowski sexually assaulted her at a party taking place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. Among other things, Villa alleged that Lewandowski “smacked my ass really hard, almost violent in nature.” (Lewandowski’s behavior did not damper Villa’s support for Trump. As recently as this year, Villa was showed at the Grammy Awards wearing a pro-Trump dress. Take that, AOC!).
Regardless of his pattern of behavior (which tends to involve, alcohol, power, and sex), he has always been welcomed back in Trumpworld.
This raises the obvious question: Why is Lewandowski finally being held accountable, now? The answer is also obvious. As Maggie Haberman explained in the New York Times, “Aides to Mr. Trump insist this latest incident is different, particularly because it involves a donor to the former president.”
Moral, ethical, and legal failings can be overlooked, but a lack of loyalty or deference to The Donald will not. The unpardonable sin is doing anything that Trump perceives as taking liberties with whatever is perceived to be Trump’s domain. That’s why, say, grabbing a reporter or refusing to pay child support won’t get you banished, but denying Trump’s “Big Lie” will. That’s why Trump donors exist in the do-not-grope zone. As Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes put it, “asses may be grabbed and thighs fondled, but the donor class shall not be molested. The MAGAverse has standards.”
In other words, do what you want to the normies—the reporters, the singers, the staffer… the civilians—but allegedly groping a donor’s wife is an unpardonable sin, right up there with admitting Joe Biden won the election.
It turns out, there really are two Americas. Some people are more important than others. And in Trump’s America, money still talks.