Two insiders from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign dismissed the idea of collusion with Russia on their watch — though former campaign chief Corey Lewandowski predicted his rival and successor, Paul Manafort, will be “going to jail for a long time.”
Lewandowski and David Bossie, who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager during the last two months of the race, appeared Tuesday evening at the Colony Hotel for a Palm Beach Republican Club event to promote their book, Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story Of His Rise To The Presidency.
Speaking to reporters beforehand, the co-authors said they never saw evidence of collusion during Trump’s campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This was an outrageous political scandal attack machine by the Democrats. That’s all this is about,” said Bossie.
Lewandowski — the last witness to be questioned by the House Intelligence Committee before it shut down its investigation this week — said he has not been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I was there for an extended period of time running the campaign. There was no collusion, there was no cooperation, there was no coordination,” said Lewandowski, who guided first-time candidate Trump past 16 rivals to win the GOP nomination before getting fired in June 2016 after a power struggle with Palm Beach Gardens resident Manafort.
“If anybody was involved with materially trying to impact the outcome of an election through some foreign entity, they should go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said. “But one thing is perfectly clear: There was only one campaign that took $5 million, paid a former British spy to put together a false dossier — it wasn’t the Trump campaign, it was the Clinton campaign and they freely admitted to doing this.”
Despite his firing, Lewandowski has maintained good relations with Trump and said he speaks to the president “regularly,” though he declined to be more specific.
After Lewandowski’s departure, Manafort ran the campaign with the title of chairman from June to August of 2016, leaving amid concerns about his past business dealings in Ukraine. Bossie came on as deputy campaign manager in September 2016 after Manafort’s departure and later was a key figure in Trump’s transition.
Mueller has indicted Manafort on money laundering and other charges unrelated to the 2016 campaign. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.
In remarks to the audience of about 120 Tuesday night, Lewandowski called Manafort a “bad dude” and called him “the guy in the orange jumpsuit…He’ll be on TV soon going to jail for a long time — long time.”
A Manafort spokesman declined comment on Lewandowski’s remarks.
Lewandowski and Bossie offered some behind-the-scenes glimpses of the campaign and their dealings with Trump.
“He’s an incredibly warm and kind guy,” said Bossie. “Now, that’s not to say he didn’t tear our skulls off on occasion.”
Lewandowski confessed he thought Trump was finished in July 2015 when, at an event in Iowa, he said U.S. Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero. But, Lewandowski said, he also remembered thinking: “If we get out of this — and there’s no way we’re going to — this guy’s going to be president of the United States.”
Bossie said Trump “had a motor that would drive us, the staff, into the ground” and fueled it with “the three major food groups of the campaign,” which were McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza.
“We never sat down for a meal,” Bossie said.
Bossie referred to Hillary Clinton as “Crooked H” while Lewandowski called her campaign “the Clinton cabal.”
They also derided what they said was an entrenched bureaucracy in Washington.
“The Deep State is very real, I gotta tell you,” Lewandowski said. “There are people who are continuing to be held over from previous administrations that want to see this president fail. And until he changes those people — those career bureaucrats, those holdovers from previous administrations — it’s very hard to be successful.”
Lewandowski dismissed concerns about turnover in Trump’s administration, saying Trump works more than 18 hours a day and his staffers cannot keep up.
“Donald Trump outworks everybody…When you see people coming and going, I pay no attention to it,” Lewandowski said. “It takes a group of people who are fresh and ready to keep up with him to implement his agenda.”