NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is leaving the Republican presidential contender’s team following a tumultuous stretch marked by missteps and infighting.
A hard-charging figure, in some ways as brash and unconventional as the candidate himself, Lewandowski had been by Trump’s side since the beginning of his unlikely rise to presumptive GOP nominee, but clashed with longtime operatives brought in to make the seat-of-the-pants campaign more professional.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks described Lewandowski’s departure as a “parting of ways.” A source close to Trump said Lewandowski was forced out of the campaign largely because of his poor relationship with the Republican National Committee and GOP officials. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
The move came as Trump faces continued deep resistance from many quarters of his party concerned by his contentious statements and his reluctance to glad-hand for money.
Lewandowski has long been a controversial figure in Trump’s campaign, but benefited from his proximity to the presumptive Republican nominee. Often mistaken for a member of the candidate’s security team, he traveled with Trump on his private plane to nearly every campaign stop, giving him more direct access to the businessman than nearly any other campaign staffer.
He was a chief promoter of the idea that the best campaign strategy was to “Let Trump be Trump.” He frequently dismissed the notion that Trump needed to hire more experienced political hands, spend on polling and sophisticated data operations, or moderate his rhetoric as he moved toward the general election. That edict clashed with seasoned operatives hired in recent months.
Minutes after news of Lewandowski’s departure was announced, Trump aide Michael Caputo tweeted “Ding dong the witch is dead!” and included a link to the song from the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery in the spring for an altercation involving a female reporter during a rally. The charges were later dropped. Trump defended Lewandowski throughout the incident and repeatedly framed his decision as a sign of loyalty and a demonstration that he will not give in to outside pressure.
“Folks, look, I’m a loyal person,” Trump told voters at the time.
“It’s so important,” he said of loyalty in a subsequent interview. “And it’s one of the traits that I most respect in people. You don’t see it enough.”
Yet Lewandowski’s approach within the campaign sparked intense criticism from experienced Republican operatives inside and outside of the campaign.
The statement released by Hicks said in full: “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.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.