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Lewandowski’s ‘Let Trump be Trump’ strategy appears to be over

Corey Lewandowski beat a misdemeanor battery charge in Jupiter, but he couldn’t survive internal battles with rival political operatives and Donald Trump’s family members.

Trump fired the brash Lewandowski as his presidential campaign manager on Monday after months of internal tumult.

Lewandowski guided part-time Palm Beach resident Trump’s unconventional, odds-defying candidacy past a field of 16 Republican rivals to become the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. But as Trump has stumbled through a slew of recent self-inflicted controversies, Lewandowski’s “Let-Trump-be-Trump” philosophy and disdain for political professionals has intensified worries among Republicans that Trump’s campaign can’t handle a general election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Lewandowski clashed for months with Paul Manafort, the veteran GOP hand who was brought in by Trump in March and given the title of campaign chairman. And Lewandowski’s limited national experience raised concerns among Trump’s adult children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. Some of Trump’s children were among those urging the billionaire businessman to change tactics for the general election.

Lewandowski’s pugnacious style was on display in March in Jupiter when he grabbed reporter Michelle Fields by the arm to pull her away from Trump after a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club.

Jupiter Police found probable cause to charge Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery. But Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg deemed the case against Lewandowski too weak to prosecute, and no charges were filed.

Trump aggressively defended Lewandowski during the Jupiter controversy — attacking Fields, inviting Lewandowski to stand beside him after his March 15 Florida primary victory and lobbying Aronberg and other prosecutors in a conference call to drop the battery charge.

“Mr. Trump did reach out to this office,” Aronberg told reporters after he announced the decision not to charge Lewandowski. “He gave his version of the facts and his opinion of the case and then urged us to do the right thing…I can tell you the conversation we had with Mr. Trump had no bearing upon our final decision in this case.”

Lewandowski played a central role in daily operations, fundraising, and Trump’s search for a running mate. He also maintained close physical proximity to the candidate. Unlike many campaign managers, he regularly traveled with Trump to his campaign rallies, which were the signature element of his primary campaign. Some critics said Lewandowski’s emphasis on the traveling Trump road show came at the expense of traditional campaign organizing and fundraising.

Reached by the Associated Press on Monday, Lewandowski deflected criticism of his approach, pointing instead to Manafort.

“Paul Manafort has been in operational control of the campaign since April 7. That’s a fact,” Lewandowski said, declining to elaborate on his dismissal.

Asked by CNN on Monday afternoon why he was fired, Lewandowski said: “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Lewandowski, loyal to Trump throughout the interview, also told CNN his relationships with Manafort and Ivanka Trump are good.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks announced Lewandowski’s departure Monday morning, saying Lewandowski “will no longer be working with the campaign. The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”

A person close to Trump said Lewandowski was forced out largely because of his poor relationship with the Republican National Committee and GOP officials. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The move came as Trump faced continued deep resistance from many quarters of his party concerned by his contentious statements and his reluctance to engage in traditional fundraising. Trump was upset that so many Republicans — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among them — were reluctant to support him, the person said, and at least partially blamed Lewandowski.

“Firing your campaign manager in June is never a good thing,” said veteran Republican operative Kevin Madden. “The campaign will have to show dramatic changes immediately on everything from fundraising and organizing to candidate performance and discipline in order to demonstrate there’s been a course correction. Otherwise it’s just cosmetics.”

Lewandowski’s consulting firm, Green Monster, was paid more than $360,000 by the Trump campaign through the end of April, and reimbursed an additional $15,000 for travel expenses, according to fundraising reports. Lewandowski remains chairman of New Hampshire’s delegation at next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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