Fired Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to bash the presumptive GOP presidential nominee on Monday during a tense interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.
After Lewandowski called Trump’s campaign “historic” and saying that “things change as a campaign evolves,” Bash asked the ex-campaign manager if he thought that it was appropriate for the Manhattan billionaire to fire him.
Lewandowski danced around the question, and later added that he’d do “everything he can” to help Trump get elected.
“If I can do that from inside the campaign, I will make that happen,” he said. “If I can do that from outside the campaign, that’s also a privilege.”
Bash pressed on, asking if Trump called Lewandowski earlier on Monday morning and offered his trademark “You’re fired” catchphrase from his days as host of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”
“I had a nice conversation with Mr. Trump,” Lewandowski said. “And I said to him it’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of this, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
“I wouldn’t change one second,” he continued.
Bash asked if the rumors of Lewandowski being escorted out of the building by security were true. The ex-campaign manager didn’t deny that he was escorted out, but painted a rosier picture of his early-morning departure from Trump Tower.
Lewandowski praised the “protocols in place” for removing an employee from the office, and added that the employees working for Trump have become close friends with him during his time working for the campaign.
He then said that “it wasn’t security, it was a friend from the office” who escorted him out.
Lewandowski also didn’t deny that he had a hot temper when pressed by Bash, saying that he’s a “very intense person” and that his “expectation is perfection because I think it’s what Mr. Trump deserves.”
“Leadership starts at the top … when I see someone who isn’t working as hard … that bothers me,” he said.
Reports circulated on Monday that the driving force behind Lewandowski’s departure was Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Bash asked him if that was true and if he had a good relationship with Trump’s family.
“Look, I have a great relationship with the family and I think that I continue to do so,” Lewandowski said. “Everybody has their own opinions.”
He added that he had “a great relationship” with Kushner, whom he praised for helping to build Trump’s “online presence.”
- Thomson Reuters
Multiple reports had sources within the campaign alleging that Lewandowski was attempting to plant negative stories about Kushner in the press.
Lewandowski called that “absolutely not true.” He also called Ivanka a “great asset to the campaign.”
“I think Ivanka is somebody who understands her father and is a fantastic surrogate for the campaign,” he continued, adding that “I’m so thankful” for being a part of the campaign.
That’s when a clearly frustrated Bash tried to interject with the obvious – that Lewandowski was masking his true feelings.
“Somebody tuning in to watch this might be thinking that they’re on another planet because you’re making everything seem so great,” she said.
Lewandowski, staying true to form, said that “the campaign is moving in the right direction” after his firing earlier in the day.
“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “And building out that campaign is something that’s very important to do.”
He said that he had no regrets about his stint as campaign manager.
“None, professionally,” he said.
Lewandowski’s ouster, first reported by The New York Times, came as Trump took a dive in the polls ahead of the general election.
Spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement to The Times:
“The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican Primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey 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.”
An unnamed source told The Times that the campaign had long planned to adjust its team as Trump prepares for the general election.
Reports of turmoil within the campaign started surfacing after Trump brought in Paul Manafort and later promoted him to chairman and chief strategist.
Watch the Lewandowski interview below:
Pamela Engel contributed to this report.